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Olympic bunglers G4S recruit for Hillsborough inquiry

Outsourcing giant G4S seeks retired police officers to investigate Britain's worst football disaster — for £14 an hour.

Clare Sambrook
30 May 2013

Security company G4S is recruiting ex-police officers for a new investigation into the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 men, women and children were crushed to death.

The company that bungled Olympic security has been advertising for retired detectives, family liaison officers and others to work on a two-year investigation in the north west of England. G4S today was reluctant to confirm that it was the Hillsborough investigation that is being led by Jon Stoddart, a former Chief Constable of Durham.

G4S is seeking investigators to work alongside the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The pay on offer is £14 to £17-an-hour. The rate being charged to the taxpayer is "commercially sensitive information". 

One sunny spring day in April 1989, at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and hundreds more were injured.

The families of the dead have fought for 23 years to get to the truth. Inquiries, litigation, disciplinary investigations, inquests, judicial reviews, a judicial scrutiny, and the private prosecution of the two most senior police officers in command on the day, all failed to deliver.

Finally, in September last year, the Hillsborough Independent Panel published a forensic rebuttal of the police claim that Liverpool fans were responsible for the disaster. The Panel said 41 of the dead might have survived if 999 services had done their job properly.

In December Home Secretary Theresa May announced two fresh inquiries to "belatedly deliver justice for the victims and their families". This opened up the possibility of manslaughter charges.

One inquiry, led by Jon Stoddart, is investigating the disaster's causes and the 999 services' performance. The other, by the IPCC alone, is examining what the police did after the disaster — the cover-up. Both teams will be based at Warrington, Cheshire. Fresh inquests are to be held early next year.

This week Doug Dawson, an executive with G4S Policing Solutions, emailed members of the National Association of Retired Police Officers seeking help in finding staff for "a major investigation based in the north west". He said: "We are looking for ex investigators with major/serious crime experience. Pay rates will vary between £14-17 per hour." 

A G4S recruitment ad posted yesterday called for staff to join an "inquiry team based in the north west of England for approximately two years". Applications would not be accepted from anyone connected to Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Midlands police forces. Late today G4S confirmed the Hillsborough connection.

The company's involvement in this emotionally charged investigation may prove controversial, and not only because of its reputation for incompetence.

The name G4S is strongly associated with death by asphyxia.

This month an inquest jury heard how Jimmy Mubenga cried out for help 50 times while being restrained by G4S guards during a forcible deportation. Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt died after restraint by G4S guards at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby in 2004. 

In July last year the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not prosecute G4S for corporate manslaughter over the death of Jimmy Mubenga. In the House of Lords, crossbencher David Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons who is conducting an independent inquiry into the use of restraint, condemned the decision. He said:

“In the face of all the evidence that we have gathered, quite apart from all the other evidence that was available, I find that CPS decision, at kindest, perverse. Passengers reported hearing Mr Mubenga cry out that he could not breathe and that the guards were killing him. There had been Home Office warnings to G4S in 2006 about the dangers of using positional asphyxia. There had been stringent criticisms by the coroner in the case of Gareth Myatt, a 15 year-old who died in Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre following the use of similar procedures for restraint by G4S guards. He, too, had called out that he could not breathe before he died.”

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