Hillsborough: Two police forces pay damages to 600 people over cover-up

4 June 2021, 13:45 | Updated: 4 June 2021, 15:01

The settlement was agreed in April, after six years.
The settlement was agreed in April, after six years. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

South Yorkshire and West Midlands police have agreed to pay damages to more than 600 people, after they released a false campaign to avoid responsibility of the Hillsborough disaster, lawyers have siad.

The compensation is for psychiatric injuries families and survivors suffered, leading them to seek out treatment or counselling.

A civil claim for damages began in 2015 and the settlement was finally agreed in April, a spokesman for Saunders Law - the firm acting for the families affected - said.

It 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.

All three men where cleared of two counts of perverting the course of justice last week. They were accused of amending police officers' statements to minimise blame on the force, but a judge ruled there was no case to answer.

The Hillsborough disaster saw the death of 96 Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final, but no one was convicted for their deaths.

That said, police were held largely responsible for the events that took place, and the campaign released afterwards was regarded as a 'cover-up'.

The Hillsborough disaster saw the death of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989.
The Hillsborough disaster saw the death of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989. Picture: PA

Saunders Law released a statement following the settlement.

"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," it said.

"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.”

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.

"Those actions on the day of the disaster tragically led to lives being lost and many being injured," she said.

"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."

West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said: "The deaths of 96 people at Hillsborough was a tragedy and my thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims who must live everyday day with the loss of their loved ones. 

"We deeply regret the harm and distress caused to those affected by the tragedy and although I know it cannot make up for their suffering, working with South Yorkshire Police, we have agreed a scheme to compensate those affected.

"I would also like to thank the families for the dignified way in which they have conducted themselves and engaged with us."