Hillsborough Disaster: Police Forces agree to pay compensation to families over dishonest police practices

Credit: PA

South Yorkshire and West Midlands Police forces have agreed to pay damages to more than 600 people over claims of a cover-up following the Hillsborough disaster, lawyers have said.

The forces agreed on the settlement earlier this year following a civil claim for abuse of power in a public office on behalf of 601 claimants, solicitors representing the victims of the disaster said.

96 Liverpool fans were killed at Hillsborough during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

A spokesman for Saunders Law, the lead solicitors for the group litigation, said the claim started in 2015 and was 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.

Donald Denton, Alan Foster and solicitor Peter Metcalf's trial collapsed last week. Credit: PA

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 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 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."

The victims of the Hillsborough disaster. Credit: Family Photos

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.

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 disaster happened during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. Credit: PA

South Yorkshire Police Acting Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said: "We offer an unreserved apology to those affected by the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath.

 "We acknowledge that serious errors and mistakes were made by South Yorkshire Police, 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.

"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."