Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Labour)
I welcome the Home Secretary’s clarification. First, the co-ordination is very welcome. Secondly, however, should the Director of Public Prosecutions decide that prosecutions should be pursued—there seems to be strong support in the House for him to do so, although it is clearly an independent decision for him—would that result in a single investigative team involving the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, or would there continue to be, in effect, two parallel investigations by the IPCC and criminal investigators? That would raise concerns, given the fact that the IPCC can pursue both criminal and disciplinary investigations.
I urge the Home Secretary to consider, as part of her role in the co-ordination process, having a single team, with full police investigative powers and led by a special prosecutor, for the criminal investigation, and for it to consist of police officers from a range of different forces, perhaps under the auspices of the National Crime Agency. The role played by the West Midlands police in the original investigation was clearly a problem and the panel’s report raised considerable concerns. Drawing police officers from a series of different forces would give the investigation greater authority.
We are keen to explore with the Home Secretary whether additional powers could be granted to the IPCC —perhaps through emergency legislation—so that it can pursue disciplinary action as well as criminal investigations. I welcome the contact that her office made this morning to ensure that we can speedily take those discussions forward. We are interested in supporting emergency legislation to enable the IPCC to compel witnesses and access third-party data.
Thirdly, although a special prosecutor is welcome, the Government will be aware that there have also been failings over Hillsborough at the Crown Prosecution Service in the past, so some additional oversight may be needed.
Fourthly, I welcome the points that Government Front-Bench representatives have made about resources. The IPCC has said that a substantial amount of work is required initially to scope the investigation, including identifying the resources required. It is, therefore, likely to be many months before officers are contacted by the investigation team. Any further delay would be of considerable concern. I hope that the Home Secretary and others can provide reassurance about the availability of those resources.
My final point on the disciplinary investigations is that the IPCC has noted that retired police officers are not liable for any misconduct sanction. That is obviously very troubling for the public in many cases, because it makes it possible for police officers who have committed
serious misconduct, or who have breached the great trust put in the office of constable, to retire on full pension without any further investigation or sanction. Given that 23 years have passed since Hillsborough, this is a particularly sensitive concern. Many officers have already retired and many more may do so before these investigations are concluded. Will the Home Secretary consider the issue carefully?