Hillsborough families to sue police for ‘abuse on industrial scale’

Lawyers start proceedings against South Yorkshire and West Midlands police

 Thousands of people  stand outside Liverpool’s Saint George’s Hall as they attend a vigil for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy on Wednesday.  Photograph:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Thousands of people stand outside Liverpool’s Saint George’s Hall as they attend a vigil for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy on Wednesday. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

 

The families of Hillsborough victims are to launch a multimillion-pound high court claim against two police forces for “abuse on an industrial scale”.

Lawyers acting for hundreds of those affected by the disaster said they had launched proceedings against South Yorkshire police and West Midlands police.

In a statement, solicitors firm Saunders Law said it was taking the legal action over the “cover-up and actions intended to wrongly blame the deceased and Liverpool Football Club supporters for the tragedy, for which there has still been no proper admission or apology”.

The high court action comes two days after a two-year inquest into the disaster determined that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed, as it swept aside years of claims that Liverpool fans were to blame.

David Crompton, the South Yorkshire police chief constable, was suspended on Wednesday in a move welcomed by some Hillsborough families amid demands for other heads to roll.

Saunders Law’s James Saunders said South Yorkshire police had spent £19 million “defending the indefensible” at the new inquest.

He added: “In addition to the police wrongdoing that caused the deaths, there is evidence of the systematic cover-up intended to transfer the blame for what happened from South Yorkshire police to the innocent, by spreading lies, doctoring evidence, pressurising witnesses and suppressing the truth.

“The evidence points to abuse on an industrial scale by both South Yorkshire and West Midlands police, beyond any ‘one bad apple’ analysis.

“In addition to actions by individuals, the evidence suggests institutional misfeasance by these bodies directed against our clients and the fans generally.”

Nia Williams, a partner at the law firm, said the legal action was not about money for the families of the victims. “It’s for accountability, not damages,” she said.

West Midlands police are facing legal action over claims it altered statements taken from football fans at the Hillsborough FA Cup semi-final on April 15th, 1989.

The legal action follows the publication – and hasty withdrawal – of a letter to retired South Yorkshire police officers telling them to be proud of their service in spite of the outcome of the Hillsborough inquest.

The letter, which was said to have been posted and hastily removed from the website of the South Yorkshire branch of the National Association of Retired

Police Officers on Wednesday, said their generation of police had faced “immense challenges”.

“You will be feeling sore, angry and disheartened, but you did a good job – we all did,” the message from the branch secretary, Rick Naylor, said, according to the BBC. – (Guardian service)