Cost of Hillsborough inquests passes £14 million

Flashback to Hillsborough, 1989
Flashback to Hillsborough, 1989
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The overall cost of the fresh Hillsborough inquests reached £14 million up to the end of March this year, according to new figures.

The hearings in Warrington, Cheshire, were ordered after the original inquest verdicts from the 1989 FA Cup semi-final tragedy were quashed in 2012.

South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings

South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings

The continuing inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Britain's worst sporting disaster are being held in a purpose-built courtroom within an office building at Birchwood Park business park.

Coroner Lord Justice Goldring is expected to begin summing up the evidence to jurors in January who will then retire to consider their verdicts.

The figures released by the inquests' secretariat showed a cumulative overall total of £14,004,424 had been spent up to the end of the last financial year.

A total of £5.8 million went on legal costs for counsel, solicitors and paralegals to the inquests, £3.8 million on accommodation including fitting out the court and £2.3 million on hearing running costs such as records management, transcription services and welfare support.

The figures do not include the legal costs for interested persons such as the families of the 96 victims, South Yorkshire Police and the individual match commanders.

Accounts published earlier this year showed a set-up cost of £6.6 million from February 2013 up to when the public hearings started on March 31 2014.

That cost was contained in the figures released.

There were 169 hearing days up to and including March 31 this year.

Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, told ITV News Granada Reports: "These inquests are costing this much money because of the complex nature of what happened following the deaths of 96 people.

"These costs have been incurred now because of the nature of what has gone on over 26 years."

Last week, The Yorkshire Post revealed that the Home Secretary had reached an 11th hour agreement to provide extra funding to South Yorkshire Police to pay for its spiralling legal bills relating to the inquests.

Theresa May agreed to provide £5m to help pay the costs after being lobbied by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alan Billings.

South Yorkshire has been grappling for a number of months with a potentially crippling legal bill for representation at the inquests in Warrington, which has now topped £20m.

The Home Office has previously provided £14.5m to help pay the £17m in costs run up during the last two financial years, largely by former senior officers who played a key role in events surrounding the disaster, including former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and seven others at superintendent or chief officer level.

South Yorkshire also has to fund the representation of its own chief constable at the inquests but the Home Office had said only £1m in special grant would be available for the current financial year.

As a result the force estimated it had to find up to another £6m to pay legal costs at the same time as cutting millions of pounds from the budget because of Government austerity measures.

The PCC is required to fund legal costs under a long-standing Home Office circular which allows officers and former officers to call on public funds if they take part in legal proceedings related to their police work.