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Hillsborough: Police Forces Agree Cover-Up Compensation For Victims

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Fans in the west terrace of Hillsborough stadium

The crush happened at the FA Cup semi-final match at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground

Two police forces are to pay damages to more than 600 people over a cover-up which followed the Hillsborough disaster.

The South Yorkshire and West Midlands forces agreed the settlement earlier this year following a civil claim.

Nobody has ever been convicted over police actions following the disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush at a 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

South Yorkshire Police offered an “unreserved apology” to those affected.

Acting Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said the force acknowledged that “serious errors and mistakes were made” by its officers “both on 15 April 1989 and during the subsequent investigations”.

“Those actions on the day of the disaster tragically led to lives being lost and many being injured [while] the force’s subsequent failings also caused huge distress, suffering and pain, both to the victims and their families,” she added.

Details of the claim were revealed after former Ch Supt Donald Denton, 83, retired Det Ch Insp Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, who acted as a solicitor for the force, were acquitted of perverting the course of justice in May.

The men were accused of trying to minimise the blame placed on the force in the aftermath of the disaster by amending police statements.

The trio went on trial but were acquitted of the charges after a judge ruled they had no case to answer.

Hillsborough victims
Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the disaster on 15 April 1989

A spokesman for Saunders Law, the lead solicitors for the group litigation, said the civil claim for misfeasance in a public office was started in 2015.

It was agreed in April but could not be reported until the conclusion of the trial.

While compensation for the 96 victims will go to their bereaved families, damages will also be paid to survivors for the injuries they have suffered and access to a fund for further psychiatric treatment or counselling.

The exact amount of compensation has yet to be agreed.

The Saunders spokesman said: “[The] 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.”

He added 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.

Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf
Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf were cleared of perverting the course of justice

The disaster at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, which was later investigated by West Midlands Police, remains the UK’s worst sporting disaster.

Many families and survivors have since led a campaign for more than 30 years to discover how and why the victims died.

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 men, women and children who died were unlawfully killed and fans played no part in the causes of the disaster.

Lawyers said the cover-up caused additional psychiatric injury to the survivors of the disaster and the families of those who died.

“The settlement of these claims marks the end of an unparalleled and extraordinary fight for justice by the victims and their families,” the Saunders 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.”

Flowers and tributes at Hillsborough memorial
Flowers and tributes were left at the Hillsborough Memorial after the collapse of the recent trial

Acting Chief Constable Poultney offered “an unreserved apology to those affected by the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath” and said the actions of officers on the day of the disaster and afterwards was “something South Yorkshire Police profoundly regrets”.

West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine added: “We deeply regret the harm and distress caused to those affected by the tragedy.

“Although I know it cannot make up for their suffering, working with South Yorkshire Police we have agreed a scheme to compensate those affected.”

She said she would like to thank the families “for the dignified way in which they have conducted themselves”.

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