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Oct 23, 2012

Questions raised over police watchdog

MPs have raised questions over the ability of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to cope with its own investigation into the Hillsborough disaster.

• IPCC to investigate officers
• Full IPCC statement

There are concerns that the police watchdog does not have the resources or manpower to handle the investigation on its own, with recent information emerging that it had been given the names of 1,444 officers, including the identities of 304 who are still serving.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claims the investigation could not be run just by the IPCC, while Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, believes there was a "problem in respect of resources''.

"It is clear this investigation cannot be done solely by the IPCC," Ms Cooper said during a debate in the Commons. "They have neither the powers nor the resources to do so... these investigations are beyond the scale of anything the IPCC have done before and it will also require powers that the IPCC simply doesn't have.''

The IPCC was asked to investigate South Yorkshire Police's role in the disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans during a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium in April 1989.

And the damning Hillsborough Independent Panel report released last month revealed a cover-up to have taken place to shift the blame from the police on to the victims, while stating that 41 of the lives lost could have been saved.

Mr Vaz is in favour of the idea of a special prosecutor being appointed to look at all the cases and to act as a co-ordination point.

"As I said to the House earlier, 1,444 names have been sent to the IPCC, of that 304 are still serving officers at South Yorkshire," he said. "So immediately when you look at the numbers of names that have been referred there will be a problem in respect of resources.

"I think that we should not wait for the IPCC to come and see the Home Secretary, actually a meeting needs to be convened pretty quickly to ask them what they need and to give them the resources that they need.''

Home Secretary Theresa May says she will work with Labour to see if new laws were needed to compel former officers to co-operate with the IPCC.

"This includes proposals to require current and ex-police officers who were maybe witnesses to a crime to attend an interview, and whether this might require fast-track legislation,'' she said.

Speaking during the opening of a Commons debate on the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, Mrs May said: "There is the IPCC investigation and there is also the investigation that is taking place by the DPP.

"If he believes that wider investigation is necessary the Home Office will make resource available under the ambit of the incoming National Crime Agency, with an investigator who is completely separate and has no connection whatever with these particular issues.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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