Hillsborough disaster: Police forces agree ‘cover-up’ compensation for over 600 victims
Hundreds of Hillsborough victims have been given payouts for “psychiatric injury” following allegations of a police cover-up, it has emerged.
On Friday, lawyers for the families confirmed that two police forces, South Yorkshire and West Midlands, had agreed the settlement following a civil claim for misfeasance in a public office on behalf of 601 people.
The amount, which has not been disclosed, was agreed in April after talks started in 2015. But details are only emerging now following the collapsed trial of two former police officers and a solicitor who were accused of amending statements in the wake of the 1989 disaster.
Donald Denton, 83, Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, 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 settlement comes despite there having been no convictions over the cover-up following the tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans died at an FA Cup semi-final.
A spokesman for Saunders Law, the lead solicitors for the group litigation, 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 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.”
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 that 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 fund for further psychiatric treatment or counselling. In cases where claimants have died, the compensation will be paid to their estate.
Lauren Poultney, South Yorkshire Police’s acting chief constable, said the force offered “an unreserved apology”to the Hillsborough victims and their families.
“We acknowledge that serious errors and mistakes were made by South Yorkshire Police, both on April 15 1989 and during the subsequent investigations,” 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.”