Hillsborough verdicts forces police chief suspension

29 April 2016

PA

Lanterns: 96 representatives from Liverpool FC and Everton FC lay roses at the commemorative event on the steps of St George’s Hall, in Liverpool, on Wednesday evening

Lanterns: 96 representatives from Liverpool FC and Everton FC lay roses at the commemorative event on the steps of St George’s Hall, in Liverpoo...

THE repercussions of the verdicts on the Hillsborough disaster continued this week, as the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police was suspended, and fresh investigations began.

The former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, will prepare a report on how the families of those who died at Hillsborough experienced the two-year inquest which concluded this week.

Bishop Jones, who chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel which prompted the quashing of the original 1991 inquests, was given this new job by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mrs May said: “I am keen that we understand and learn from the families’ experiences.

“I have therefore asked Bishop James — who is my adviser on Hillsborough — to write a report which draws on these experiences. This report will be published in due course, to ensure that the full perspective of those most affected by the Hillsborough disaster is not lost.”

Bishop Jones will continue to chair informal family forums which allow the families of the victims to follow the progress of the various investigations.

The inquests, which concluded on Tuesday that the 96 fans who died at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed as a result of negligence and mistakes by the police and other authorities, were the longest legal proceedings ever heard by a jury in England.

The Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, welcomed Bishop Jones’s new task and urged him to expose the pain that the families went through all over again.

“I saw how hard it was on the families, trapped for two years in a temporary courtroom; told to show no emotion as police lawyers smeared the dead and those who survived. Beyond cruel,” he said.

“I welcome Bishop James’s new role in explaining just how cruel this was to the House [of Commons] and to the country.”

On Wednesday, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (SYP), David Crompton, was suspended by the force’s police and crime commissioner, the Revd Dr Alan Billings.

In a statement, Dr Billings said that the slew of criticism, and the erosion of “trust and confidence” in the force, left him with no choice. “I have reached this decision with a heavy heart, following discussions with David Crompton both in the run up to, and following the delivery of, the Hillsborough verdicts,” he said.

Dr Billings had attended the scene of the disaster in 1989 with other clergy and social workers to minister to the bereaved.

A number of local MPs, and some of the Hillsborough families had demanded that Mr Crompton resign. There are now separate criminal inquiries into failings on the day of the disaster itself, and into how SYP officers colluded to cover up the part they played in the fatal crush, and blame the fans.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is leading the inquiry into the force’s cover-up, said that its investigation was the largest ever conducted, but it was making good progress, and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

A spokesman for the force, however, has defended the way it handled itself during the inquest. “The intention throughout these proceedings has been to assist the jury understand the facts. We have never sought, at any stage, to defend the failures of SYP or its officers. Nevertheless, these failures had to be put into the context of other contributory factors,” it said.

In Liverpool, a crowd of 20,000 gathered outside St George’s Hall on Wednesday as huge banners bearing the words “Truth” and “Justice” were unveiled.

Ninety-six representatives from both Liverpool and Everton football clubs lit a lantern, before the names of each of the 96 men, women, and children who died were read out. The crowd then sang the club anthem “You’ll never walk alone”.

A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Sheila Coleman, told the crowd that she was pleased Mr Crompton had been suspended. “I hope the investigation into his conduct is conducted with the integrity his force denied us for 27 years.”

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