Police chiefs face mass damages claim from Hillsborough families

Former South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton after the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquests
Former South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton after the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquests
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A damages action brought by 465 people over the police “cover up” in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster has reached the High Court.

Their lawyers have applied for a group litigation order (GLO) as the most efficient and cost-effective way to manage the claim for misfeasance in public office against the chief constables of South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police.

The claimants are either relatives of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died as a result of the crush at the stadium in April 1989 - or those who were present and survived, or their family members.

Heather Williams QC said: “They allege that they suffered damage as a result of the anguish caused by the prolonged cover up, additional to damage suffered by the events of the disaster itself.

“The damage relied upon is predominantly psychiatric injury”.

Ms Williams told senior High Court official Master Fontaine it was contended that “senior South Yorkshire police officers constructed and propagated a false narrative intended to deflect blame for the disaster away from their own officers and on to Liverpool supporters and furthered this by suppressing and altering evidence indicating the disaster was caused by the failings of SYP.

“From April 20 1989, West Midlands Police (WMP) were the force appointed to investigate the disaster and thereafter assisted or facilitated SYP in this cover up.”

She said that the 2012 Hillsborough Independent Panel report was a “significant breakthrough” and the new Hillsborough inquest, which ended in April, had concluded that the 96 were unlawfully killed and was highly critical of a number of organisations including SYP.

The inquest jury was not directly concerned with post-death events and was not asked to arrive at conclusions in relation to the cover up.

Ms Williams said that both the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Operation Resolve, which was conducting the fresh criminal investigation, expected to hand over evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the end of this year. The hearing in London, which Ms Williams said involved allegations of the “utmost severity”, is expected to last a day.

At the end of the hearing, Master Fontaine granted a GLO.

The 465 claimants are represented by eight different firms of solicitors and it is anticipated that there are additional claimants in the wings.

The litigation, which is in its very early stages, is expected to return to court next autumn for more case management.