Home Secretary Theresa May refuses to confirm or deny that families of victims were spied on in police operations.
More than 2,500 police pocket notebooks that could provide vital information about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and which were not available to previous inquiries have finally been recovered by investigators, the Home Secretary has revealed.
MPs told Theresa May they were shocked to learn that only now had the missing police pocket notebooks been handed in by officers and the forces who had stored them.
The Home Secretary also fuelled concerns that some of the families of the 96 Hillsborough victims were spied on in undercover police operations, including tapping their phones, when she told the Commons that convention meant she was unable to confirm or deny that such activity had taken place.
However, she said the Independent Police Complaints Commission was aware of the concerns and, although no formal complaint had been received, would pursue any evidence that secret surveillance had taken place. May said she was considering writing to all Chief Constables to remind them of the need for full disclosure to the Hillsborough inquiry. It was disappointing, she said, that it had taken so long for the police pocket notebooks to be produced.
â€œThey have been treated [by the officers concerned] as personal possessions which they could take home and do with as they wish,â€ she told MPs.
She appealed to any officers, retired or serving, who still had notebooks from that day to come forward.
May was updating the Commons on the progress of the new inquiry into the disaster, which happened during the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday FCâ€™s Hillsborough stadium on 15 April. May confirmed that the fresh inquests were due to start on 31 March and reported that more than 1,600 witnesses, including 250 who had not come forward before, had responded to the IPCCâ€™s witness appeal.
She said the number of police accounts believed to have been â€œamendedâ€ had reached 242 and 160 interviews had already taken place in relation to them.
The fresh criminal inquiry, Operation Resolve, led by the former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, which is investigating the deaths has so far completed 1,000 interviews of witnesses.
The Home Secretary said IPCC investigators were analysing the 2,500 police notebooks that had not been made available to previous investigations. â€œI think everybody has been perhaps not surprised but disappointed that there have been further documents that have come forward as a result of the two investigations, particularly documents like the police pocket notebooks.
â€œI have written both to Dame Anne Owers, as chairman of the IPCC, and to Jon Stoddart to ask them whether they would find it helpful for me to ask all police forces â€¦ whether they are having any problems in relation to getting material and whether it will be helpful for me to write to Chief Constables to ask them for their forces to look at any material that they might have.â€
The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for the immediate release of any surveillance material to do with the Hillsborough families and campaigners. She said the last 25 years had been extremely difficult for the families and the next few months would also be very hard for them.
Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Liverpool Garston, tweeted after the statement that MPs had been shocked that the 2,500 police notebooks had only just been brought forward.
Hillsborough: investigators recover 2,500 police notebooks.