Lawyer for families has lodged complaints against alleged ‘tapping’
By Luke Traynor
Hillsborough campaigners phone lines may have been channelled through a centralised “tapping unit”, a leading lawyer said yesterday.
Elkan Abrahamson has lodged a series of complaints with the police watchdog over the worrying claims.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed it has received three referrals about officers spying on campaigners following the tragedy that saw 96 Liverpool fans lose their lives.
Mr Abrahamson, of Broudie Jackson and Canter, said the firm has received strikingly similar accounts of family members picking up the phone to make a call, only to hear an ongoing conversation between other Hillsborough campaigners in a different part of the country.
He said: “We’ve had a few separate complaints of phone tapping.
“It involved a family member picking up the phone only to hear two other family members speaking elsewhere.”
He demanded that allegations of police officers spying on Hillsborough families was included in the public enquiry announced by Home Secretary Teresa May on Thursday after a report found Scotland Yard had spied on murder victim Stephen Lawrence’s family.
Mrs May told the Commons that conclusions that the Metropolitan Police planted “a spy in the Lawrence family camp” were “deeply troubling”.
Mr Abrahamson said: “It is essential that the enquiry announced by the Home Secretary includes the concerns about surveillance in the Hillsborough case.
“It will, of course, focus on Lawrence, but the Hillsborough tragedy should equally be subjected to the same scruitny on this subject of spying.”
The enquiry will be led by Mark Ellison who fronted the independent report into the Lawrence surveillance concerns which sparked this week’s government decision.
The latest Hillsborough complaint echoes the story of Hilda Hammond who lost her 14-year-old son Philip and who was on the phone to a friend in 1990 when she could suddenly hear another chat of fellow campaigner Jenni Hicks who was in conversation at her home in Middlesex.
Broudie, Jackson and Canter has also documented a further complaint of a relative believing they were followed by police in Sheffield at the time of the inquests into the tragedy, between 1990 and 1991.
The IPCC also said one of the surveillance complaints related to property being stolen.
The Metropolitan Police, and other forces, has refused to deny or confirm they took part in surveillance of Hillsborough families.
Home Secretary Teresa May has now volunteered to write to every chief constable in the UK to demand they hand over any documents on Hillsborough to the new inquiry.
The move was welcomed, but Mr Abrahamson added: “She should ask police forces to provide information on all relevant areas, like surveillance.
“To hide behind reasons of national security seems particularly unfair when we’re talking about bereaved families.”
It also emerged that some retired cops who had refused to give evidence were now ‘reconsidering’, the IPCC said.
Of the 243 officers whose statements were suspected of being doctored, just 12 of them remain to be questioned.
Rachel Cerfontyne, deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, said: “Concerns have been raised been raised by families about alleged surveillance from police.
“We believe the Home Secretary’s letter may also assist in identifying whether any documentation relating to surveillance exists.”