South Yorkshire police agree payouts for Hillsborough ‘cover-up’

South Yorkshire police has agreed a settlement with more than 600 people to compensate them for the false police campaign that sought to avoid responsibility for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and blame the victims instead, which bereaved families have always said was a cover-up.

The force will pay compensation to bereaved families whose relatives were among the 96 men, women and children unlawfully killed at Hillsborough, and to survivors of the disaster, for additional trauma and psychiatric damage caused by the police campaign.

The financial recompense is for the psychiatric injuries the families and survivors have suffered, and to pay for treatment or counselling. The civil claims, alleging misfeasance in a public office, were first made in September 2015, during the new inquests into how the 96 people died.

The inquests jury wholly rejected the South Yorkshire police case, which was advanced again, that people who were at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium to support Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest had caused the disaster by being drunk and other misbehaviour.

The jury found that no behaviour of the Liverpool supporters contributed to the dangerous situation at the ground, and that the 96 were unlawfully killed due to gross negligence by the South Yorkshire police officer in command of the match, Ch Supt David Duckenfield.

South Yorkshire police previously agreed in November 1989 to settle claims for compensation to bereaved families and some of those injured in the disaster, which amounted to £19.8m, according to the Hillsborough independent panel’s 2012 report.

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Sheffield Wednesday and the club’s stadium engineers, Eastwood & Partners, contributed £1.5m each, and Sheffield city council, the safety authority for the ground, contributed £1m.

Lawyers who have acted for the family members and survivors in the new claims for psychiatric damage described the police campaign after the disaster as “one of the largest and most shameful cover-ups by a police force in history”.

In a statement, they 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 suppressed the truth about the responsibility of the police, and blamed the football supporters for the horrific events that unfolded at the Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April 1989.

“Ninety-six Liverpool supporters were unlawfully killed as a result of the police failings that day, and countless others suffered physical and psychological harm.

“The distress and heartache caused by the loss of life, and the injuries caused to those who survived, were made significantly worse by the lies told and the cover-up that followed. As a result of the cover-up, that was maintained for nearly 30 years, the victims, both the bereaved and the survivors, and their families and loved ones, suffered additional psychiatric injury. No amount of money can compensate them for the ordeal they have suffered, but this settlement acknowledges both the cover-up and its impact upon each of the victims.”

The families have not been able to publicly mention the settlement, which was agreed at the end of April, while the prosecution was still ongoing of two former South Yorkshire police officers and the force’s then lawyer, on charges of perverting the course of public justice for amending police statements after the disaster.

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The three defendants were formally acquitted last week after the judge, Mr Justice William Davis, stopped the trial on the basis that the official public inquiry held by Lord Justice Taylor, to which the amended statements were sent, was not a “course of public justice”.

The defendants all pleaded not guilty, and since their acquittal, two of their barristers have said publicly that there was no police cover-up after the disaster. The Crown Prosecution Service barrister Sarah Whitehouse QC also infuriated families by appearing to minimise their 32-year fight for recognition that there was a cover-up. Whitehouse said in court there had always been a “swirl of rumour” about there having been a cover-up.

Yet South Yorkshire police was agreeing settlements to the claims of public misfeasance, which alleged a cover-up, while the trial was taking place.

South Yorkshire police have been contacted for comment.



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