Deborah Glass, the deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, has spoken of her determination to conduct the definitive investigation into the Hillsborough disaster.
Today marks the anniversary of the publishing of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report which laid bare the truths about the April 1989 tragedy.
Glass will lead the IPCC's investigation, which will review allegations surrounding amendments to statements, the actions of the police officers after the disaster, the role of West Midlands Police and those who investigated what happened at the time.
You can read her interview with Liverpoolfc.com in full below.
Deborah, what will your investigation entail?
The Hillsborough Independent Panel did a fantastic job in putting together documentation and putting together a report that has clearly had a major impact. Our task is very different. We are carrying out the largest criminal investigation into police conduct in UK history. What we need to be able to do is to ensure that we deliver the most robust and thorough investigation, that answers the many questions people still have.
Can you tell us about the two different investigations that are going on from the same building and how they relate to each other?
There are three, separate but linked processes here. So it is complicated. There is a coronial process. We have inquests that are starting in March next year, which are very, very important. The work that is being done here, both by Jon Stoddart's team and by our own investigators, at the moment, is a great deal to support the inquests. We're also carrying out criminal investigations. The Stoddart investigation is a criminal investigation into manslaughter that covers a range of bodies, including the South Yorkshire police, but also lots of non-police parties, who may or may not come into the frame. Our independent investigation is into the aftermath - into what happened after the tragic deaths of 96 people, the allegations around amendments to statements, misinformation, the West Midlands Police investigation and the alleged cover-up. That's what we're looking at.
Can you describe the different stages of the investigation into the aftermath, where the investigation is currently at and the subsequent steps that will be taken?
It's been something of a moving process because when we first announced this investigation in October last year, we didn't have a coronial process, we didn't have a Jon Stoddart appointment. What we had initially was an independent investigation into the aftermath with none of the other pieces in place that we now have. And because there are linkages in those, we've actually had to adjust along the way. So, for example, we published an investigation plan earlier this year. After the coroner was appointed, and there had been discussions around the scope of the inquest and who should support the coroner's team, we've had to adjust that plan. So what we've done is change our priorities. We're still going to investigate the same things we said were important last October but we've shifted the focus, so that the work we're now doing is very much around supporting the coronial team so that the inquest can start with all the information it needs in March of next year.
What would you say has been the headline findings of your investigations to date?
What we've found is that firstly there is a lot more information and documentation out there that the Independent Panel didn't see. We don't know how important that is. We know that more statements were amended than was in the public domain before. We've recovered the policy books, for example, from the West Midlands Police investigation that people hadn't seen before. So what we know is that there is more information out there and we'll be doing a witness appeal. There may be people there who have never given an account, who have something very important to say. So we won't actually know this until the process is over.
What are the specific challenges that have been created by Lord Justice Goldring's decision that the inquests will be served by the evidence gathered at Warrington?
The investigation was always going to be an enormous challenge. When you carry out what amounts to an historic enquiry, you have the challenge already of something having happened nearly 25 years ago. So you've got all of the challenges around potential loss of evidence, memories fading, people dying, but the particular challenges around the inquests are also significant. We're doing our very best to overcome them because we know how important it is for the inquests to start as soon as possible. But the normal process of an inquest is that a criminal investigation would be completed before the inquests take place. And because this investigation is going to take several years, and because people don't want to wait, and I can completely understand that, the challenge is an on-going criminal investigation, while we're having a coronial process, that will also be testing the evidence as we go along. So it is complicated, but we will make it work.
The families have received assurances from the home office that all the necessary resources will be made available to all the investigations, in order to see the process through. Have you been given similar assurances? And have you given your own guarantee to the families and the people of Liverpool that these investigations will be seen through?
We've been given an assurance from the Home Secretary that we will have what we need to deliver what we have promised. We've taken on a building especially for the Hillsborough enquiries, we've taken on staff especially for the inquiries, so I've got no reason to think that this isn't going to happen.
The Home Secretary announced two changes in law to assist with the investigation. One was that serving police officers are now required to attend an interview as a witness. The other is that the IPCC is able to investigate matters that were previously investigated by the Police Complaints Commission. Do you now have all the powers you feel are necessary to conduct the most thorough investigation possible?
Yes. We do have the powers we need to do this investigation. I am confident of that. Essentially, this is a criminal investigation and our investigators have the powers of police officers in carrying out a criminal inquiry, so we can arrest people if that is appropriate and proportionate. We can seize documents; we can do all the things and we have all the powers that the police have when carrying out a criminal inquiry.
The panel raised serious concerns about the role of South Yorkshire Police chief Peter Wright in developing and publicising a version of events that blamed Liverpool supporter's for the disaster. To what extent is his role being investigated?
I've been very clear in the terms of reference that the allegations about misinformation are very much part of what we are investigating. Lots of people might come into the frame there. Some of those people may be dead. Clearly, that limits the investigation, but it doesn't stop you investigating. We can investigate the actions of people who are no longer with us. Clearly, what can't happen is to get their account, and ultimately, they are beyond the reach of earthly justice.
In April's pre-inquest hearing, a QC representing the victims' families pressed Lord Goldring to appoint his own staff to investigate the evidence, saying that the families did not have faith in the IPCC. How important is it to you that the familes do have faith in what's going on?
I'm often asked this question about confidence. And one of the things I first said to the families when I met them was, 'I don't expect you to have confidence in us'. They've been let down by everybody. They've been let down by the police, let down by the coroners, by subsequent inquiries, by the Crown Prosecution Service. So I don't expect them to have confidence in the IPCC. Why should they? But what I've also said to them is, 'Judge us on what we do'. So, look around, see for yourself the work we're doing. And I think this will be an incremental process. It would be extraordinary if they were to immediately have confidence in us. I wouldn't expect them to. But what I hope and what I'm pretty confident about is that as they see the work that we're doing and as they see for themselves they may change their view. As they talk to our incredibly hard-working and dedicated staff, to whom this is their life at the moment - to get to the bottom of this and to do this investigation into Hillsborough. I think that may begin to change their view. That's the intention.
Given the history of Hillsborough, the families are understandably keen to have some sort of body that might provide an oversight of the investigative process. There was talk at one point of that potentially being a challenge panel - which may now not be a possibility. Can you bring us up to speed on that?
What I've also said to the families is that, because we understand their lack of confidence in the system, we welcome challenge and we welcome scrutiny. The families themselves are the first to provide that challenge and scrutiny. They are very well represented and we get challenges from them directly and from their legal teams. And that's a very important part of the process that has been on-going right from the start. We've also said that because of their lack of confidence, we'll also welcome some form of external challenge and scrutiny. And we've been talking to them about how we could set that up for some time now. The Director of Public Prosecutions is actually leading on that process. We've been working together. What has made that complicated is the appointment of the coroner. So, something that we thought we had has become more difficult because of the coronial process. But actually, on the other hand, it's a positive step, because there is an independent person, there is a coroner, who is cracking the whip and making sure that we all deliver, so that the inquests can start in March next year. That's not to say that we have given up on the idea of an external influence - that's not the case at all. We're still very keen to make this happen and we are working very hard with the families and their representatives to see how we can deal with that.
The recently appointed Director of Public Prosecutions decreed back in 1996 that it was not in the interests of justice to order a fresh inquest into the death of Kevin Williams at Hillsborough. What was your perception of Hillsborough before the HIP produced this report last year?
I'm not British, I actually grew up in Australia, so I was not living in this country at the time of Hillsborough. But of course, I would have seen newspaper reports. It wasn't part of my consciousness before the Panel's report in the way that it is for many, many people in this country and certainly in Liverpool. So for me it was incredibly moving. I read the Panel's report and it had a very powerful impact on me. It's what made me believe very strongly that we have to investigate this. These are very serious, very troubling allegations about police misconduct. Yes, they are historic and yes it happened a long time ago, but they are so important. We need to get to the bottom of this. Since I've had contact with the families and with people from Liverpool, it's become even more obvious just how important this is. Hillsborough wasn't just the most appalling tragedy for the families, it's still an open-wound for those who survived. It was also one of the reasons that an entire generation of Liverpool people had no confidence in the police. One of the Liverpool MPs said to me that people have grown up with no confidence in the police because of Hillsborough. That makes it very real and very current. That matters. That's why we have to investigate this.
Would you say that we now, broadly, know the truth of Hillsborough? Or do you expect there to be further, shocking revelations to come to light?
What we know is that there is still material out there and that there may well be witnesses who have never been seen before, so there will be more out there. The consequences of that, I don't think we can say. The inquest process itself will test the evidence and will explore things, I'm sure, very rigorously. So there may well be revelations, evidence and there may be other things that we haven't yet seen. That's why we need to do this - to make sure that we get the final, definitive account.
What do you think it is that motivates, not only you, but your entire staff here?
I think people here are incredibly committed to carrying out this robust and thorough investigation. People here were very affected by what's happened. When I've met the families, I've found it incredibly powerful. The grief is still so raw so many years on. And people feel this. We make sure that our staff are aware of the impact that Hillsborough has had on the lives of, not only the families, but on a generation. People here are incredibly dedicated and incredibly committed to delivering this investigation that needs to withstand the most robust scrutiny.
Can you tell us about your role and how confident you are that you're able to pass on your role without any kind of issue?
I was very mindful when I announced this investigation in October last year that I was not going to be around for its conclusion. So I've always been very conscious of that and very keen to make sure that there was going to be a smooth transition. There is and there will be a replacement. My replacement has been shadowing me already and when she takes over, she will have all the information she needs. I'm absolutely confident there will be no compromise to the investigation as a result of my moving on. What was very important to me was to make sure that I put the foundations in place. We had to start this from scratch. We had to get the building, we had to recruit the staff and we had to build the largest home server in Europe to support this investigation. There are very significant building blocks. My successor will be taking on a different type of role - it will be an investigation that us much more in a steady state. There'll still be enormous challenges, but it will be a different set of challenges.
Are you happy with how things have moved, given everything you're trying to put in place here? Within many families, there is some concern about the speed of the process - how do you respond to that?
I can completely understand. For people who waited for nearly 25 years for this, every minute, every hour or every week is going to be painful. They want the result now. What's really important to recognise is that this is a huge criminal investigation. If we don't get the building blocks right, then we won't succeed. And Hillsborough itself has a history of failed investigations done by others. I don't want this to be is another quick investigation that fails. What I want this to be is the last definitive investigation into Hillsborough, so the next generation isn't still waiting for answers.