THE sheer scale of the Hillsborough cover-up, and the fact that it took 27 years for the families of the 96 football fans crushed to death to prove that their relatives were killed unlawfully, made it inevitable that they would join forces and instigate a class action lawsuit against those police officers locally and nationally who they accuse of suppressing the truth.
With these details emerging hours after public pressure prompted the suspension of David Crompton, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, and retired officers posting a totally insensitive valedictory message praising the shamed force’s work in the troubled 1980s, public confidence in this scandal-hit constabulary has never been lower.
Indeed the crisis deepened still further last night when Mr Crompton’s deputy Dawn Copley stepped aside after just 24 hours as Acting Chief Constable following scrutiny of a corruption inquiry when she headed Greater Manchester Police’s professional standards unit. The need for a fresh start could not be more urgent after this latest embarrassment.
Hillsborough, it must be stressed, is the culmination of a succession of scandals, past and present, and Mr Crompton cannot escape his share of responsibility and accountability. Even though many of these miscarriages of justice preceded his appointment, he did write a tactless memo calling on his force to be “innovative” in its media handling of the football tragedy or its officers would be “roadkill”.
Mr Crompton also found himself in the spotlight following the botched search of veteran pop star Sir Cliff Richard’s home and also his force’s unimpressive response to the Rotherham sex grooming scandal, hence the fact that no MP defended him, or his force, when Mrs May addressed the Commons.
Yet calls to disband the force must be placed in context. First there is next Thursday’s police and crime commissioner election when Dr Alan Billings, the current incumbent, will hope to receive a mandate after taking the decision to suspend Mr Crompton due to the “erosion of public trust”.
Nevertheless the new commissioner, however respected, cannot be expected to act alone. The job is too big. That individual will require help from the Government, not least with funding the mounting legal costs. But they will also need the Home Office’s support in putting together a team of trusted officers, untainted by the past, who can change the leadership culture of a police force that is rotten to the core.
At least Mrs May’s adroit handling of Hillsborough means that she commands the respect of the victims. The first holder of this prestigious post to listen to their cries for help, she has proven to be a politician of the highest integrity. Yet, while the Home Secretary must retain the trust of all those Liverpudlians betrayed for so long, she also needs to command the confidence of the residents of South Yorkshire who have a police force in turmoil. Its communities still need protecting and serving. The sooner a clean break from the past is made, the better. It cannot come a day too soon.
Flooding fallout: Eyes of the world backon county
as THE Tour de Yorkshire peloton pedals over the river Ouse at Cawood before racing through Tadcaster, a town that became synonymous with the winter floods, their sporting challenge is nothing compared to the difficulties still being faced by those homes and businesses which were ruined.
Four months after the eyes of the world were first on Yorkshire, families still face a lengthy detour just to get from one side of Tadcaster to the other after its iconic bridge collapsed. Furthermore many small businesses in this town are still battling to reach a financial settlement with intransigent insurers. Even David Cameron acknowledged this week that this remains a concern.
However the insurance industry’s obfuscation, coupled with premiums soaring to unaffordable levels in flood-hit areas, is not unique to Tadcaster. Similar difficulties have been experienced across Yorkshire, not least in those parts of the Calder Valley which have been repeatedly flooded since 2012.
At least businesses, and especially those which were already without insurance cover when the floodwaters rose relentlessly last December, have received some much-needed assistance thanks to the innovative Calderdale Rising crowdfunding campaign which has raised £200,000.
If only this endeavour was matched by those national politicians whose reputations plummeted when they failed to respond to the floods with sufficient speed. Just because the Tour de Yorkshire is taking place, and the county’s tourism industry is open for business, does not mean the problems associated with flooding have gone away. They definitely have not.