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David Crompton, South Yorkshire Chief Constable, Called On To Resign By Hillsborough Families

'A police coverup of industrial proportions.'

26/04/2016 19:23 | Updated 27 April 2016

David Crompton, the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, should resign and the press must be held to account for the untruths they "slavishly reported" in 1989, families of the 96 Hillsborough victims said on Tuesday.

The police and ambulance service were accused of "deliberately" lying to divert blame away from the emergency services and put it on the victims.

Families of the victims spoke at a press conference following today's verdict, in which, 27 years after the tragedy at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, jurors found that football fans were "unlawfully killed".

Mark George, one of the barristers representing the families, read out a statement on behalf of a bereaved family member.

Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Relatives of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster called for the resignation of South Yorkshire Police force's Chief Constable.

He said: "One of the worst aspects for the bereaved families and indeed those who survived the disaster... is that the supporters have been so vilified in the past 27 years.

"They have been accused of not only causing the disaster but of impeding the rescue efforts and abusing and urinating on the emergency services. They were accused of stealing from the dead.

"All of this was untrue - wickedly so. The attack on the supporters by the South Yorkshire Police and others and their attempt to blame the supporters for causing the disaster perverted the course of the original inquest.

"It should not have happened again. Yet it did."

The Hillsborough disaster unfolded during Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989 as thousands of fans were crushed at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground.

George said that police had used "smoke and mirrors" and told a "shocking series of lies to pervert the course of justice". 

The jury ruled that fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

He continued: "Blaming the supporters was cowardly and dishonest.

"It caused untold distress to the bereaved families and to survivors, themselves traumatised and damaged by the disaster."

He added: "In 1989 parts of the media slavishly reported that hooliganism was responsible as fact.

"In 2016 the free press must acknowledge that and put it right."

The Sun front page from 19 April 1989.

Reporters from The Sun were unwelcome at the press conference that was being given by victims' families on Tuesday and a notice attached to the door reading "NO ENTRY TO SUN JOURNALISTS".

Those who lost loved ones in the disaster have still not forgiven the tabloid paper for its coverage of the tragedy.

Four days after the Hillsborough disaster, The Sun ran a front page with the headline ‘THE TRUTH’ citing fans’ hooliganism as a contributing factor in the 96 deaths.

The paper claimed Liverpool fans stole from victims, urinated on police officers and blocked rescue efforts.

The Sun has since apologised for its coverage of the tragedy.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her teenage son James in the disaster, levelled criticism at the press, saying: "We didn't just have to fight the establishment, we also had to fight the media."

Today's verdict ends the longest jury case in British legal history.

Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son in the tragedy, criticised the press and justice system.

Aspinall slammed the justice system as a "disgrace" as Hillsborough families were forced to pay for a private prosecution while the police received public funding. 

She added: "The police themselves and what the families had to go through, which angers me more than anything, that the families, when they lost their loved ones, ended up having to look for money more or less straight away to defend... there was nothing to defend, but we had to do it.

"The police got paid for. They had so many barristers against our one, but we had to pay for that one.

"We didn't kill our kids. They didn't go to a football game to be killed. But we had to pay."  

Aspinall's comments echoed those made by Labour MP Andy Burnham who demanded that police investigating the disaster be prosecuted for being paid public money to "tell lies".

The shadow home secretary accused South Yorkshire Police force of covering-up officers' failures in a bid to prevent the truth of football fans' deaths coming to light. 

Burnham said that decades of lies by police had caused "incalculable" damage to families who have fought for 27 years to discover how their loved ones died and who was to blame. 

“This inquest has today delivered justice, and I would say next must come accountability,” the Leigh MP told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster called for the resignation of Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton.

Families were damning of the "coverup" from authorities, particularly from South Yorkshire Police, and called for Crompton's resignation .

Anne Burkett, who lost her son Peter, said: "To lose a loved one in a disaster is impossible to describe or put in mere words.

"But what followed massively increased the distress and grief of all of us families.

"A police coverup of industrial proportions. It has continued in one guise or another until today.

"Even in the course of these proceedings when ex-senior South Yorkshire officers have denied the obvious and the current chief constable's legal team have sat back and allowed the brazen denials of their 1989 high command to advance before the jury as fact."

She added: "The jury has now spoken. Now is the time for consequences.

"The criminal investigations must be allowed to take their course. We hope and urge the prosecution's decisions can be taken soon.

"We call for the resignation, or removal, the sacking of the current chief constable of South Yorkshire Police."

Conclusions Are Reached On All 96 Deaths At The Hillsborough Inquest

Crompton himself was castigated in 2013 after accusing Hillsborough families of lying in their accounts of the disaster.

At the time, the police watchdog said Crompton's comments had been "at best ill-judged and at worst offensive and upsetting".

They were contained in an email to senior police colleagues, sent in 2012, which has been published under the Freedom on Information Act.

Crompton, who has apologised for the slur, wrote: "One thing is certain - the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice will be doing their version ... in fact their version of certain events has become 'the truth' even though it isn't!!

"I just have the feeling that the media 'machine' favours the families and not us, so we need to be a bit more innovative in our response to have a fighting chance otherwise we will just be roadkill."

It was sent as part of South Yorkshire Police's preparations for the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in 2012.

Trevor Hicks, whose two daughters died at the football ground, said: "There were two disasters.

"The one on the day and the totally and absolutely preventable one what followed afterwards."

"And even 'disgrace' isn't good enough to capture what's gone on for so long."

Hicks said that the families have "always tried to fight a fair and reasonable campaign", adding: "But we have been faced with slander upon slander, insult upon insult and it's all been totally and absolutely unnecessary.

"And I think that is one of the true victories for today for truth and justice, really." 

Family members also blamed the football club for not investing in health and safety at the ground, yet still spending thousands of pounds a week on players.

The inquest jury of six women and three men delivered their verdicts just after 11am.

The jury, sitting in Warrington, Cheshire, found police planning errors ‘caused or contributed’ to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the disaster.

Jurors gave their conclusions having answered a general questionnaire of 14 questions as well as a record of the time and cause of death for each of the Liverpool fans, 27 years and 12 days since the disaster on April 15, 1989.

These included questions about the police planning before the game, stadium safety, events on the day, the emergency services’ response to the disaster and whether the fans were unlawfully killed.

Within minutes of the findings being released, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it would begin the process of formally considering criminal charges over the disaster.

Dozens of relatives of the victims attended court every day that it sat, which exceeded 300 days.

After family members heard the verdict, they left the court to applause from crowds outside.

Scroll down for more...

 

Conclusions of the jury on the 14 questions:

Question 1: Do you agree with the following statement: On April 15 1989, 96 people died in the disaster as a result of crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through the exit gates.

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 2: Was there any error or omission in police planning and preparation for the semi-final on April 15, 1989, which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 3: Was there any error or omission in policing on the day of the match which caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 4: Was there any error or omission by commanding officers which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 5: When the order was given to open the exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, was there any error or omission by the commanding officers in the control box which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 6: Are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 7: Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?

Jury's conclusion: NO

Question 8: Were there any features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium which you consider were dangerous or defective and which caused or contributed to the disaster?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 9: Was there any error or omission in the safety certification and oversight of Hillsborough Stadium that caused or contributed to the disaster?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 10: Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday and its staff in the management of the stadium and/or preparation for the semi-final match on April 15, 1989, which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 11: Was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday and its staff on April 15, 1989, which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed at the Leppings Lane turnstiles and in the west terrace? 

Jury's conclusion: NO

If NO, could errors by Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and staff have contributed to dangerous situation at turnstiles?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 12: Should Eastwood and Partners (structural engineers) have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough Stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster? 

Jury's conclusion: YES 

Question 13: After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the police which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster?

Jury's conclusion: YES

Question 14: After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the ambulance service (SYMAS) which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster?

 Jury's conclusion: YES

Jurors agreed the tragedy happened "as a result of crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through the exit gates".

And they answered yes to the question: "Was there any error or omission in police planning or preparation which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?"

The conclusions follow previous inquests in 1991, which recorded verdicts of accidental death.

That ruling was later quashed after it was claimed that authorities had manipulated the timing of events to deflect blame from them and on to fans.

No evidence of the emergency response after 3.15pm was heard at the original inquests.

The medical experts who gave evidence at the fresh inquests said the 3.15pm cut-off which had been imposed in the original inquests was arbitrary and wrong.

The cut-off was based on a misunderstanding, the court heard previously, that all of those who died were either dead or had suffered such severe brain injury by that time that it would inevitably prove to be fatal whatever the nature of the response.

Chief Constable Compton said the force would “unequivocally accept the verdict of unlawful killing” and admitted that officers had got policing of the cup tie “catastrophically wrong”.

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