The inquiry announced yesterday into the actions of police involved in the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath will be one of the largest ever of its kind, involving a vast number of witnesses and documents. There must, however, be serious doubts about whether the Independent Police Complaints Commission has sufficient resources to get to the truth in this case, or a culture that allows it. The IPCC was set up in 2004 to replace the discredited Police Complaints Authority, and with the intended function of securing and maintaining public confidence in the police complaints process. This has not been achieved. The perception is that the police have undue influence within the IPCC. The IPCC has already identified some of the main issues for this inquiry, including the inaccurate briefings to the media and politicians after the disaster, and the role of the police in the follow-up investigations.
These are familiar issues from recent cases such as the death Ian Tomlinson, and issues which the IPCC has a record of failing to investigate and address properly. After the death of Mark Duggan last year, the IPCC themselves said that Duggan shot first. This was untrue and they were forced to apologise. We have seen in previous investigations that the IPCC seeks to operate on the basis of trust and cooperation, careful of causing upset or offence. Time and again, that approach has been shown to be misplaced. What is needed is a proper investigation of the sort which the public would expect to be subjected.
Previous, relatively simple, investigations have taken months and even years to complete. If the IPCC does attempt to carry out a proper investigation on this scale, it is impossible to envisage how many years this might take.
The writer is a specialist in actions against the police at Tuckers Solicitors
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