South Yorkshire’s former chief constable David Crompton has started legal proceedings against the county’s crime commissioner after claiming the decision to call for his resignation last week was “unlawful”.
In a statement released by the legal firm Kingsley Napley, Mr Crompton revealed he had served a claim for judicial review on Dr Alan Billings and the other parties involved in his resignation from his £162,000-a-year role.
Police and crime commissioner Dr Billings said Mr Crompton was being told to go because he showed “unacceptable insensitivity” to the Hillsborough victims in his statement after the conclusion of the recent inquests in April.
The statement, which said police failures at Britain’s worst sporting disaster in 1989 “had to be put into the context of other contributory factors” seemed to go back on an earlier apology issued in 2012 by seeking to focus on the behaviour of Liverpool supporters.
According to Kingsley Napley, Mr Crompton now claims that the PCC “acted unlawfully” in the four decisions he made relating to his suspension in April and the process to force the chief constable to resign.
It said: “Mr. Crompton’s case, in summary, is that each of these decisions was unreasonable and/or irrational and/or disproportionate [and] are therefore unlawful.”
Mr Crompton filed his claim for a judicial review at the Administrative Court on Monday and has asked for the decision to ask him to resign to be quashed, effectively nullifying the PCC’s ruling.
Dr Billings must now file his own grounds explaining why his decision was justified. It emerged that Mr Crompton resigned on September 29, as he was obliged to by law once the crime commissioner has asked him to resign.
Dr Billings said Mr Crompton had resorted to “self-justifying” claims and defended controversial questioning by the force’s legal teams at the inquest which questioned the behaviour of fans. He said the officer had failed to understand the hurt and anger this caused among the families of those killed in the football tragedy.
The decision to remove Mr Crompton contradicted advice given to Dr Billings by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor, who called the punishment “conspicuously unfair, disproportionate and unreasonable”.
Sir Tom said the words, “other contributory factors”, alluded to failures among the ambulance crew and local authority at the disaster in April 1989, not the fans, who were “completely exonerated”.
Writing in The Yorkshire Post last week, Dr Billings said there had been an “erosion of trust and confidence” in Mr Crompton’s leadership “which would have continued and intensified as long as he remained in post”.
He said two other scandals currently engulfing South Yorkshire Police – the ongoing child abuse investigation in Rotherham and the prospect of an inquiry into its handling of the Orgreave picket during the miners’ strike in the 1980s – meant it was crucial that the community had confidence in the force.
Dr Billings added: “The Chief Constable’s statement the day after the Hillsborough verdicts were announced has seriously set back that possibility and this affects many ex-mining communities across this county.”
The jury at the Hillsborough inquests has found 96 football fans were unlawfully killed, after hearing two years of evidence.
Jurors found the then match commander, Chief Supt David Duckenfield, was “responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care.