Transcript of interview with Deborah Glass deputy chair of the IPCC who is leading the Hillsborough investigation
On Friday afternoon I sat down with Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, to talk about progress of the investigation into the Hillsborough cover-up.
The interview lasted about an hour, and here is the transcript of the answers with an outline of the questions asked.
Broadly where are you up with the investigation?
There is no easy soundbite to 'what are you doing with Hillsborough'?
Two very welcome things happened in December. One that the inquests were quashed , and the other was the appointment by the Home Secretary of Jon Stoddart (former chief constable of Durnham) to lead the investigation into the deaths.
Two separate but linked investigations, and sitting underneath them, key linkages for both.
The document archive is clearly something that belongs to both investigations. What we can't do is have two investigations stockpiling their own document base and not speaking to each other.
Absolutely crucial to successful working of this is a single document store that supports both of the inquiries.
It is not yet known whether the police investigation will be the coronial support team, which would make sense.
We got the keys to our new Warrington office last week I am happy to say, but we are not waiting for that to be outfitted as it needs to be.
It's a three storey building, it's large enough to support both inquiries and we hope the full document base.
Investigations and documents co-located, and the major incident room co-located. Although they will be separate inquiries, they will be in daily touch with each other.
The other common area. It's very very clear from the standpoint of the families they want us to be joined up. What we are working on is a single point of contact for the families.
We will be getting to the stage quite soon I hope, where we will be wanting to get evidence from people.
In addition to the great amount of material in this archive are people who have never given evidence who want to, and we contact on an almost daily basis from people who say I want to make a statement. That's important.
We know there are people out there who have not made statements, who have valuable evidence, and one of the investigation teams if not both will want to hear from. So we to have the facilities in place to accommodate that.
The DPP came with us on Wednesday to the meeting with the families. IPCC, Jon Stoddard, DPP.
So they could see how we are working in a coordinated and completely joined up way.
This is all about avoidance of unnecessary delay. What we don't want to do, do what we think is a satisfactory investigation, give it to the DPP and have them say we need to persuade that line of inquiry. Which is what is normal. Normally you do the investigation first and then it gets reviewed.
What we are all keen to do is to ensure the CPS is linked in at the earliest possible stage, to both inquiries, so that they are advising and directing as we go along.
We will follow the evidence as far as we can and with the powers we have, and those powers have allowed us to investigate non-police officers in the past.
How important are the new powers (allowing the IPCC to investigate allegations examined by its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority, and to force police officers to be interviewed)?
The ability to look again at things that we done under the old system was very important.
What we were aware of was, for the investigation into the deaths...
Without the changes to the law, the IPCC would have been barred from looking into anything that had been investigated previously. There are for example seven key officers involved in the previous investigation, who would not have been able to be looked into without that change.
So we did think that was absolutely crucial.
And what about the practicalities of compelling officers to testify?
We don't yet know because it's not merely a matter of passing a short piece of legislation, there are regulations that sit beneath that. The devil is always in the detail when it comes to the law, and we have got people looking hard at the drafts I can tell you that.
How many people are working on the investigation?
We have got about 30 people working on it at the moment. Some investigators, some lawyers. They are not necessarily full time at the moment.
We have got a major recruitment campaign for 70 investigators, of who we are planning to put 30 on Hillsborough.
30 are to build the Hillsborough resource, because what we are keen to do is not just take a load of people and put them onto the Hillsborough investigation. What we may do is take 10, 20 people from our current investigation [teams] and back fill from our new recruits.
We were hiring 40 new people anyway, we have expanded that to 70.
In addition to that. Between us, between the Stoddart investigation and ours, there will be about 30 people and that's part of the numbers I am giving you, probably about 15 each on the HOLMES system.
The team dealing with HOLMES will be about 30 people.
It's a huge task, we are talking about the biggest criminal investigation into potential police misconduct in the history of this country combined with what maybe the biggest criminal investigation into the deaths that has been seen.
So you would expect a very sizeable resource to support that.
This is incredibly important. And I do pick up from discussions with families there is a degree of frustration that this all seems bureaucratic.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel disclosed 450,000 pages of documents onto its website, why can't you just use that for your investigation?
If we could just work with what is on the website, we would. The reason we can't is because the HOLMES system is not just about storing documents and making them available.
Every document needs to be read for its relevance to the inquiry, with what potential offences is it relevant to? Manslaughter, to perverting the course of justice, to misconduct in public office?
Documents generate actions. You can't just take a scan of 26,000 documents and leave it at that. Specialist staff need to read every single document to determine its relevance to the inquiry and to see whether actions are generated as a result of that. Actions might be, trace this witness.
There are specialist HOLMES readers and indexers that's what they do, their life is spent in major incident rooms.
One of the key tasks that Jon Stoddart and I are working through is to put together a high level timeframe. The next time we meet the families, I would imagine in a month's time, the next update we will be looking to provide them with a high-level timeframe.
The other reason is...
It's crucially important because it is the major weakness of every major criminal investigation is not getting the disclosure right.
What defence lawyers exploit, and that is what they are paid to do, basically...
The obligation that prosecutors have, when they bring a case, is also to make available all the material that might potentially undermine the prosecution case.
The collapse of the Lynette White trial: it collapsed on disclosure grounds. We are all painfully aware of those things and we don't want anything like that to happen here.
If you don't have it 100% reliable audit trial on every single document, even if you don't use it that can be fatal to a prosecution case.
I know it seems tedious and bureaucratic, and we do really understand that, but it is so important. It is about getting the foundation in place.
What we are not doing is is waiting for this document process to be complete before we get on with things.
We are already using the documents on the panel's website to begin to develop lines of inquiry.
Let's take the amendments to statements, we know from the panel that 164 police officer statements have been changed.
We have established that 34 of those officers are still serving with South Yorkshire Police, five have retired but have been re-employed in a support role, seven have died and the remainder have retired.
From West Midlands there are three key decision makers identified. We know who they are, we know they are still alive and retired.
What we will do is start with a small number of key individuals and work our way from there.
Perjury could apply to anybody of any rank that gave evidence that is not true, that is not rank specific.
With things like amendments to statements, junior officers may say I was told to do that, they may not have committed an offence.
What we need to establish from the senior decision makers what went on here.
How are you vetting investigators for links to Hillsborough to make sure there is no attempt to subvert your investigation?
We vet people very carefully anyway. We already have tight vetting procedures, but we are particularly conscious of it as a concern on Hillsborough.
All our current staff are required to make declarations of interest on Hillsborough, anybody who has worked for South Yorkshire Police or West Midlands police who may have been working for us for years will not be involved in this.
How much extra resources have you asked for from Home Secretary Theresa May?
We are treating this as we will have the resource to do the job, so we are going out to get the people we need. She [the Home Secretary] has not set a limit, but equally we are going to be responsible about the way we spend public money.
I am quite sure the Hillsborough families will keep the pressure on. If I come back and say 'they have changed their minds'...
I wish it were like this for all our investigations, but it isn't. This is the one case that we are dealing with where we have been promised we will have the resource to do the job we would wish to.
At what point will you know you have delivered?
That's a very difficult question to answer. What we need to deliver here is a robust investigation that withstands the most thorough scrutiny, and it will be subject to it.
It will be subject to scrutiny by the families, by the challenge panel we are setting up, by the media, by parliament, by the public. I am very very aware of that.
What I can't promise, and won't promise, and nobody should believe me if I did promise would be that we are going to deliver prosecutions or sackings or anything specific, because that would just be wrong and it would be misleading. It wouldn't be possible to promise something like that.
What I promised at the time and would repeat is that we would do everything in our power to investigate as thoroughly and robustly as it deserves. And it deserves the most thorough investigation, and that is what we will do.
If no one sits in the dock will this investigation not have failed?
I don't want to paint success in those terms. I know for a lot of people that is how it will look.
I truly don't know. Clearly for lots of people that's what justice means. Justice means people being in the dock. But actually it means more than them being in the dock, it means them being in prison. I really get that, and actually we are all aware of it.
That's why we are doing everything we can to ensure the foundations are in place, that the investigation will withstand scrutiny, so that if that is where the evidence takes us that that's where we will get.
But we have also got to be really aware of what a complex and difficult job this is.
Investigating something this complicated that happened that long ago is always going to pose massive massive challenges.
As I have said before, people die, memories fade.
I don't want put that on as a measure of success. I sure other people will and I am very mindful of that.
That's frankly why we need to be able to withstand that type of scrutiny, because I don't want this not to go to a prosecution because of anything we have done or not done.
What does the challenge panel look like, and where are you up to with it?
One thing I am very conscious of is the lack of trust, in us and the system as a whole. The entire criminal justice system has been brought into disrepute by Hillsborough.
I have said to the families I don't expect you to trust us, to trust me. Why should they? If I had had the experience of official inquiries delivering the results they did, why would I trust anyone?
So I know I have to got to earn their trust, I know as an organisation we have got to earn their trust.
And similarly with the DPP, they didn't bring a prosecution last time, they didn't take over the private prosecution from the families. Judges don't exactly get off scot free either.
It is about trust in the system, that's the reason we and the DPP are setting up what we are calling a challenge panel. Which is a second layer of challenge.
In addition to the challenge from the families and their lawyers, we are setting up an external challenge.
We are asking the families for names, we are discussing terms of reference with them.
The principle behind that is to have a panel of small panel of people with unimpeachable reputation in whom the families have confidence to challenge us.
Part of the way this has to work they have to sign a confidentiality statement. There should be no document they are unable to review if they want to.
Privy to our inner most workings, but set up in such a way that it does not compromise our independence.
There has been mention of documents that were not seen by the panel, have you discovered what they are?
We were aware that there were documents the panel had not taken possession of.
We won't know for certain until the document process is complete, but the indications we have is that they are probably not relevant, or largely not relevant. For example duplicates.
How are you going through the 2,444 police officers?
What we are starting with is the decision makers.
There are five key decision makers in South Yorkshire, and three in West Midlands. Those are identified as they key people we want to get onto first.
Have you had people contact you to say 'I changed a statement and I want to come clean'?
I don't think I can answer that question. And if I could I wound rather not before discussing it with the families first.
When did Hillsborough came onto your radar?
I am Australian and I was not living in the United Kingdom when this happened. I didn't grow up with the Hillsborough disaster as part of my psyche as so many people have.
This really hit my consciousness when the panel's report came out, and I read it.
I don't think anybody was expecting the IPCC to launch the biggest investigation into police misconduct in UK history when the panel's report came out.
It's an incredibly powerful report, and what came through for me incredibly strongly was this is about our business. This is potentially the most serious police misconduct, which has the most serious impact in undermining people's confidence in the police, and we need to deal with this.
This is not something I think anybody expected us to take on, or wanted us to take on. But we took it on because it matters, it really matters.
Obviously it matters crucially to the families. The grief and the loss that I hear in their voices now when they speak is incredibly impactive.
It matters to the people of Liverpool incredibly powerfully.
One of the MPs was saying to me last week an entire generation of young people in Merseyside grew up not trusting the police because of Hillsborough.
But it matters to public confidence generally, it matters to this country.
We are doing this because it is incredibly important. This is not just another investigation for the IPCC, and we would not be doing this if we were not absolutely determined to get it right.
What is your impression of the families?
I am full of admiration. The tenacity they have displayed. The dignity they show is humbling. I know that can be a trite word, but it's powerful.
Let me give you an example.
At one of the meetings, one of the survivors gave us an account he had written immediately afterwards.
He said I would like you to take this away so you can understand.
I emailed him and said 'thank you that was very powerful I would like to circulate to our staff'.
And he said fine. I did that. Our staff have found it very powerful and impactive.
This is something that we really want to get right. The people working on this understand why it is so important.
I want them to have met the accounts of people like that, I want them to have met the bereaved families, and to have heard about what they have gone through. I want everybody to understand why this is so important.