SOUTH Yorkshire Police stands in the dock this week, following a jury’s verdict that the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster were killed unlawfully.
The verdict is the latest blow to a force that has been hammered by an unprecedented series of controversies, some dating back to well before the fateful FA Cup semi-final of 1989.
These are the five biggest scandals to have hit police in South Yorkshire.
In what has been called the greatest miscarriage in British history, South Yorkshire Police suffered the humiliation yesterday of being branded liars for having briefed the government and media that misbehaving Liverpool fans had caused the disaster which killed 96 at an FA Cup semi-final in 1989. The truth was that their own officers were to blame. The fans had, in fact, been killed unlawfully.
Two criminal inquiries that could ultimately lead to senior policemen or the force itself being brought before court are ongoing, and a decision is expected in the coming months.
Among those likely to face investigation are:
• Former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander on April 15 1989.
He has already been interviewed under criminal caution. When asked at the inquests if his negligence caused the disaster, he said he would not use that word and instead classed it as an “oversight”.
• South Yorkshire Police.
The jury concluded there were “major omissions” in SYP’s Operational Order for the cup tie, including no specific instructions on how the Leppings Lane terrace pens were to be filled and monitored. The force’s emergency response was said to have lacked co-ordination, communication, command and control.
• Sir Norman Bettison.
A chief inspector at the time of the disaster who later became Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police and Merseyside Police. He denied claims that he made remarks in a Sheffield pub about SYP placing the blame on “drunken Liverpool fans”.
CHILD GROOMING SCANDAL IN ROTHERHAM
South Yorkshire Police’s record on tackling child sexual exploitation has been under scrutiny since the publication of the Jay report in 2014 into child abuse in Rotherham.
The report sparked a national scandal when it said at least 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked and abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, under the noses of police and other authorities.
The report by Prof Alexis Jay said police and social workers knew what was happening but failed to act.
A further report by Prof John Drew found that, by today’s standards, the scale of response to child sexual exploitation in the 2000s was inadequate across the whole of South Yorkshire.
BATTLE OF ORGREAVE
The government is currently being urged to order a Hillsborough-scale inquiry into police actions at the “Battle of Orgreave” during the 1984 Miners’ Strike.
In 2012 a BBC documentary claimed South Yorkshire officers may have colluded in writing court statements which saw miners wrongly charged over the picket-line clashes.
When the cases came to court, all were abandoned after it became clear that evidence provided by police was unreliable. South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.
South Yorkshire Police faced ridicule when Sir Cliff Richard’s home was searched in connection with an inquiry into alleged child abuse.
This controversy surrounded a deal the force struck with the BBC which led to the raid being covered on live TV, a situation an independent report found had “interfered with his privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress”.
Chief Constable David Crompton was accused by MPs of incompetence over his force’s handling of the affair.
THE RHINO WHIP AFFAIR
A culture of corruption that reached to the very top of what was then Sheffield City Police was exposed as early as 1963, when it emerged that detectives routinely beat suspects with stolen weapons, tampered with evidence and had their lies covered by their seniors.
The so-called “rhino whip affair”, named after an offensive weapon handed in to police, began when three burglary suspects were beaten to elicit a confession. Two detectives said such assaults were encouraged by senior officers and that evidence was regularly planted on suspects.
The Home Secretary set up a public tribunal, which condemned the entire leadership of the force, finding that violence was encouraged from the top, and that senior officers were covering up the truth.
Four top brass were suspended almost immediately. They included Chief Constable Eric Staines and the Head of CID, George Carnill, who both retired days later. The deputy head of the CID was also suspended and resigned, and a Detective Chief Inspector was returned to uniform.