Police forces agree to pay damages after Hillsborough disaster 'cover-up'
The South Yorkshire and West Midlands forces agreed the settlement earlier this year
Two police forces have agreed to pay damages to more than 600 people after a cover-up following the Hillsborough disaster, lawyers have said.
The South Yorkshire and West Midlands forces agreed the settlement earlier this year following a civil claim for misfeasance in a public office on behalf of 601 claimants, solicitors representing the victims said.
It comes despite nobody ever being convicted over the cover-up following the tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.
A spokesman for Saunders Law, the lead solicitors for the group litigation, said the claim was started in 2015 and agreed in April, but could not be reported until the conclusion of the trial of former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, retired detective chief inspector Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, who acted as solicitor for the force.
The three men, who were accused of amending police officers’ statements to minimise blame on the force, were each cleared of two counts of perverting the course of justice last week after a judge ruled there was no case to answer.
The Saunders Law spokesman said: “Through this civil claim for misfeasance in a public office, 601 victims sought justice and accountability for the deliberate, orchestrated and thoroughly dishonest police cover-up that supressed the truth about the responsibility of the police and blamed the football supporters for the horrific events that unfolded at the Hillsborough Stadium on April 15 1989.”
The disaster at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium was investigated by West Midlands Police.
Lawyers said the cover-up had caused additional psychiatric injury to the survivors of the disaster and the families of those who died.
The spokesman added: “The settlement of these claims marks the end of an unparalleled and extraordinary fight for justice by the victims and their families.”
In 2012, then-chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton apologised for a cover-up following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
New inquests, which concluded in 2016, found that the 96 men, women and children who died were unlawfully killed and fans played no part in the causes of the disaster.
In the statement, Saunders Law said there had been “an almost complete failure of the justice system to deliver justice” and called on the Government to implement a Hillsborough Law, which would include a duty of candour for public officials.
The spokesman said: “We trust that this settlement will put an end to any fresh attempts to rewrite the record and wrongly claim that there was no cover-up.
“In so commenting, we contrast the dignity of the bereaved families and the supporters with the conduct of those who still seek to peddle the discredited lies of the past.”
The law firm said the police forces will pay damages to compensate each claimant for injuries they suffered and provide access to a treatment fund for further psychiatric treatment or counselling.
In cases where claimants have died, the compensation will be paid to their estate.
Acting Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Lauren Poultney offered an “unreserved apology” to those affected by the disaster and its aftermath and acknowledged “serious errors and mistakes” were made by the force.
She said: “Those actions on the day of the disaster tragically led to lives being lost and many being injured.
“The force’s subsequent failings also caused huge distress, suffering and pain, both to the victims and their families. This is something South Yorkshire Police profoundly regrets.
“Since 2016, we have worked closely and in a constructive manner with the legal representatives of the families affected by the Hillsborough tragedy to agree a scheme to compensate those affected. We know these settlements can never make up for what they have lost and suffered.
“We would like to thank the families for their dignified approach, which has enabled us to progress and agree the scheme. Today, our thoughts continue to be with them and the loved ones they have lost.”
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