London (AFP) – The two investigations into the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster on Thursday passed files on 23 suspects to prosecutors who will now consider criminal charges.
Fifteen of the suspects relate to the investigation into the causes of the disaster, while eight relate to an alleged police cover-up which followed the tragedy in which 96 Liverpool supporters died.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would now decide whether to bring charges.
The disaster occurred on April 15, 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, in Sheffield, northern England.
Following the publication of a report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012, which concluded that police had sought to cover up their failings, two separate probes were launched.
Operation Resolve looked at the lead-up to the tragedy and the day of the match.
Meanwhile the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) looked at the the South Yorkshire Police force on duty that day, and the West Midlands Police which originally investigated the SYP’s actions.
“Having received files from both Hillsborough investigations, we will now assess these in order to determine whether we have sufficient material on which to make charging decisions,” said CPS special crime head Sue Hemming.
More than 170 allegations of police misconduct continue to be probed by the investigations.
Fresh inquests, the longest in English legal history, which concluded last year, found the 96 victims were unlawfully killed.
Assistant Commissioner Robert Beckley, who led Operation Resolve, said: “Our task has been to investigate whether any individual or organisation is criminally culpable for their role either in the planning and preparation for the match or on the day of the game itself.
“The extensive file we have submitted, which contains over 35 million words, reflects four years of intense work.”
IPCC deputy chair Rachel Cerfontyne said their probe was the largest into alleged police wrongdoing ever undertaken in England.
“Our criminal investigation has now substantially concluded,” she said.
Potential offences considered by the probes included gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and offences under safety legislation.
The CPS decisions could take several months.
Lawyer Elkan Abrahamson, who represents 20 Hillsborough victims’ families, said they were relieved that files have finally gone to the CPS and urged the body to reach its decisions “without further delay”.
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