Prosecutors Consider 23 Ciminal Suspects Over Hillsborough Disaster

Hillsborough investigators have identified 23 criminal suspects over the disaster which left 96 people dead, a spokesman for the two criminal investigations into it has said.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will now study files relating to the 1989 disaster.

Fifteen of the suspects relate to the Operation Resolve investigation into the causes of the disaster, while eight relate to the Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC) probe into the alleged cover-up following the tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool FC fans died.

It came as the police watchdog's deputy chairman said investigators had looked for the "controlling minds'' in an alleged cover up into what happened.

Rachel Cerfontyne said: "We have always said what we want to do was cast the net wide but actually what we've been looking for is the controlling minds.

"If there was a cover-up, and remember at this stage it's allegations of a cover up, then what we wanted to understand was who was behind that, who was making the decisions, who was giving the instructions and that is what we've been focusing on in the evidence gathering to submit to the Crown Prosecution Service.''

The IPCC's eight suspects are all retired police officers, who served in either South Yorkshire Police or West Midlands Police - the force which investigated the disaster.

The watchdog has been considering offences including perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

Assistant commissioner Robert Beckley, head of Operation Resolve, said the 15 suspects identified by that operation included organisations, police officers and civilians.

He said investigators aimed to be "impartial and unbiased'' in their work.

He said: "They've worked through the evidence and in their judgment, in our judgment, there's sufficient evidence for these 15 people and organisations.''

Operation Resolve investigators considered offences of gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and offences under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and Health and Safety at Work legislation.

Ms Cerfontyne said she understood families of the victims may be disappointed after the watchdog decided not to investigate suspended South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton.

In the past few months the IPCC has also published reports saying it found no evidence to support claims by a South Yorkshire Police press officer that the force had tried to ``spin'' the inquests, or to support allegations Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, an officer in South Yorkshire at the time of the disaster, lied to journalists about his role in the tragedy.

Ms Cerfontyne said: "I think there's no doubt that some families have been unhappy with some of the decisions the IPCC has made in relation to those cases.

"After 28 years of waiting it's not surprising they are frustrated at all the delays and all the injustice they feel they have experienced.''

She added: "My decisions have to be made impartially, independently, based on robust investigations and based on evidence and that is what I owe the Hillsborough families and everybody else in my role.''

The Crown Prosecution Service is expected to take three to six months before making decisions on whether to bring charges.

Ninety-six men, women and children were killed in the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest.

New inquests which concluded last year found the victims were unlawfully killed and fans were not to blame.

Lawyer Elkan Abrahamson, director of Broudie Jackson Canter, which represents 20 of the Hillsborough families, said: ``Our clients are relieved that files have finally gone to the CPS to consider criminal proceedings against 23 individuals and organisations.

"Given that the CPS have been working in tandem with the police and the IPCC for many years we believe decisions should now be taken without further delay.

"We will continue to scrutinise the process and any decisions.''

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