Thursday 20 December 2012

Jon Stoddart to lead new inquiry into Hillsborough disaster

featured-jon-stoddart-94906811RECENTLY-RETIRED Durham chief constable Jon Stoddart is to lead a new inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced yesterday that he would lead the fresh police investigation into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at the home of Sheffield Wednesday.

Mr Stoddart has previously had high- profile responsibilities at a national level, he led the independent review of Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking by the national media and other suspected criminal activity.He also gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking in March and was given an OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours.

Mr Stoddart said: "I am aware of the great significance and personal responsibility which comes with leading this criminal investigation.   My first priority is to meet with as many of the families as possible and to establish a working, open relationship with them throughout the investigation. I have held a number of meetings already and have been struck by the families’ humility and steadfast determination to see justice delivered for their loved ones.”

"My role is to ensure that we determine exactly what happened in the lead-up to and on the day of the disaster and establish where any culpability lies."

Families welcomed the move as the “first step towards accountability“ but urged all authorities to work together to ensure justice. The announcement came as High Court judges quashed the original accidental death verdicts on the disaster which occurred 23 years ago and ordered a fresh inquest. Both decisions follow a damning report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel in September, which laid bare the attempts to shift blame for the tragedy onto its victims.

Mr Stoddart will work closely with the previously announced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster. Both investigations will be conducted from the same office in Warrington, Cheshire. The Stoddart investigation will be into a range of agencies outside the IPCC’s remit but in order to maintain independence, the IPCC will look at the actions of police officers in relation to the deaths.

In addition to announcing a new investigation, a Liaison Board will be established to bring together all organisations working on behalf of the Hillsborough families. Mr Stoddart will be able to recruit investigators and staff to his team but will not be allowed to employ officers or former officers who have prior connection to the Hillsborough disaster.He is also unable to recruit any officers or former officers who worked in West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

The investigation may trigger criminal prosecutions, the Home Secretary said, which will be the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Stoddart has been appointed to Metropolitan Police as assistant commissioner to carry out the investigation.

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