Chapter 6: Parallel investigations

Introduction

2.6.1 As stated in Part 1, a tragedy on the scale of the Hillsborough disaster witnessed by thousands of people in the stadium, millions on television and recorded in detail by photographs, television and CCTV resulted in immediate recrimination and blame. In a volatile climate of shock, distress and reaction the investigation of, and inquiry into, the causes, context and circumstances of the disaster were initiated.

2.6.2 Given the well-publicised focuses on fans' behaviour and the policing of the crowd, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) moved quickly to set up an internal investigation. This was in anticipation of another police force eventually conducting a criminal investigation to provide the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with possible grounds for prosecution. The external investigation extended to potential breaches of police discipline and involvement of the Police Complaints Authority.

2.6.3 Further, there was a range of civil litigation including claims for damages involving organisations whose acts or omissions regarding the safety of the stadium might have contributed to the disaster. It was self-evident that in the public interest a judicial inquiry led by a senior judge and supported by appropriate specialists would be established.

2.6.4 Finally, as stated previously, multiple deaths in controversial circumstances presented the South Yorkshire West District Coroner with a considerable challenge in gathering information and conducting the inquests before a jury.

2.6.5 Based on material disclosed to the Panel, this chapter considers the dynamics of, and relationship between, the investigations as they ran, often in parallel, from the immediate aftermath of the disaster to the conclusion of the final remaining complaint against a police officer in January 1992.

2.6.6 Beginning with the early investigations conducted by SYP, it details: the transfer of the investigation to West Midlands Police (WMP); the triple role in servicing the Judicial Inquiry, the criminal/disciplinary investigation and the coronial inquiry; the reports, investigations and responses to the Judicial Inquiry; other reports, including those produced for civil litigation; the outcomes of the criminal investigation; and the disciplinary inquiry.

2.6.7 The complex civil litigation issues are examined in Chapter 7 and the role of the Coroner and the inquests are discussed in detail in Chapters 8 to 10. The following illustration maps the time span of the various investigations and inquiries demonstrating the extent of overlap within a relatively brief timeline.

Figure 8: Timespan of the investigations and inquiries
Figure 8: Timespan of the investigations and inquiries