Hillsborough Families Angry After Retired South Yorkshire Police Told To Be 'Proud' Of Their Work

'Persistent and tenacious attempt to defend the indefensible.'

28/04/2016 11:19

The families of some of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster have reacted angrily to retired South Yorkshire police being told to be proud of their work. 

A message on the website of the South Yorkshire branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (Narpo) said retired officers had served dedicated and courageous careers and the 200 of them who co-operated with the fresh inquest should be "proud" for having done so.

The revelation came as the force's chief constable, David Crompton, was suspended on Wednesday over the handling of the tragedy that killed 96, and the House of Commons was told South Yorkshire Police (YSP) had protected "itself above protecting people".

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
St George's Hall in Liverpool is illuminated following a special commemorative service to make the outcome of the inquest into the Hillsborough tragedy

Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew died during the disaster, criticised the force. She told the BBC: "Where I get very angry is when my brother most needed the police's help, they literally turned their backs on him."

The message on the Narpo website was reportedly made public by accident and has since been removed. 

Narpo secretary Rick Naylor told the BBC the message was not intended for public consumption or designed to offend.

The inquests found the Hillsborough victims were unlawfully killed, and that there were police failings. 

Brookes added to the BBC: "No police officer has ever lost one day's pay because of Hillsborough."

She said her late father had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the disaster, and she found it "offensive" that officers accused the families of lying and "prolonged their agony, misery and heartache".

Naylor's message said officers had "great sympathy" for the families and friends of the victims killed and acknowledged "mistakes were made and we would all like to turn the clock back".

Despite Andy Burnham on Wednesday giving a damning speech on the police "cover-up" of the disaster, Naylor, in his message, noted that there were "many examples of outstanding actions and selflessness by police officers on that tragic day as they did their best to deal with the disaster unfolding before them".

PA/PA Wire
Andy Burnham accused South Yorkshire Police of 'protecting itself above protecting people' during a damning speech in the House of Commons

Naylor told retired officers, "you will be feeling sore, angry and disheartened, but you did a good job - we all did."

Michael Mansfield QC, who represented many of the Hillsborough families, told the BBC that the comments showed that the mindset of police "has not changed", and showed a "persistent and tenacious attempt to defend the indefensible". 

At the conclusion of the inquest on Tuesday, Crompton admitted the policing of the match was "catastrophically wrong" and "unequivocally" accepted the findings.

Families of those who died have called for criminal prosecutions to follow the hearings. Two ongoing investigations into the disaster and its aftermath could finish by the end of this year.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings has reportedly said he does not expect Crompton to return to his post following his suspension.

Crompton was due to retire in November. 

Billings earlier said his decision to suspend Crompton had been based on "the erosion of public trust and confidence" in the force resulting from the public backlash and criticism in the Commons.

After hearing news of the suspension, Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James in the 1989 tragedy, said they were on the "right track".

"Let's hope that is only the beginning of what is going to be done," she added.

Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton was suspended over his response to the Hillsborough tragedy

SYP and the South Yorkshire Ambulance service, as well as a number of individuals including David Duckenfield, match commander on the day of the disaster, could face criminal proceedings over the deaths.

The Crown Prosecution Service is expected to receive files of evidence at the end of the year before considering whether to bring charges.

Aspinall said the people of Liverpool had endured 27 years of sleepless nights in their pursuit of justice as she addressed a commemorative service held outside St George's Hall in the city, where the names and ages of each of the victims were read.

At the close of the inquest on Tuesday the jury found that blunders by South Yorkshire's police and ambulance services "caused or contributed to" the deaths as a result of the disaster at the FA Cup semi-final.

The jury also concluded that Liverpool fans were not to blame for what happened.

Suggest a correction