Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Britain to hold biggest-ever police investigation into soccer tragedy

Former and current police officers, including those who are in senior positions, could face criminal charges if the probe discovers that they failed to carry out their duties properly or if they tried to cover up any unprofessional conduct. The investigation will be handled by the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) after British Prime Minister David Cameron formally apologized to victims and their families in what was the worst sporting disaster in British history.

It’s widely believed that police officers made several mistakes during the tragedy and tried to cover them up as well as place the blame on soccer fans. The game was between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest and those who died were Liverpool supporters. Police attempted to blame them for the deaths of mostly young fans. The fans were packed into an enclosure in the stadium that was fenced in and those at the front of the section were forced forwards against the fencing.

An inquiry took place after the tragedy and top-tier English soccer stadiums were forced by law to be changed to all seating venues so each fan had a ticket and a seat. Before the disaster, most stadiums had standing-only sections that were often overcrowded and dangerous, especially for youngsters. An independent panel has already looked into the Hillsborough incidents and it found that the police responded poorly and that about 41 people could have possibly been saved.

The panel’s report stated that the police said that Liverpool fans were to blame as many of them didn’t have tickets and were drunk and aggressive. Police said hundreds of ticketless fans tried to force their way into the stadium causing the ensuing rush and panic. It was also revealed that senior police officers altered some witness statements that originally criticises the police response to the tragedy. It was reported that South Yorkshire Police gathered 164 statements and they took out negative comments from 116 of them.

The IPCC will investigate those findings to find out exactly who is to be held responsible and if any charges of improper conduct are warranted. The commission said the investigation will certainly be the biggest ever held in the nation. It’s possible that some people could face charges of manslaughter due to the incident. Norman Bettison, a senior officer with West Yorkshire Police who has been accused of attempting a cover up, has announced that he’ll retire next year so the commission can fully investigate police involvement and response to the tragedy.

Ian Palmer
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