SOUTH Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton is under fire after an email emerged in which he said the Hillsborough families’ version of events was not ‘the truth’.
In a note sent to colleagues four days before the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report last September, Chf Con Crompton said South Yorkshire Police ran the risk of becoming ‘roadkill’ once the findings were revealed.
Sketching out a strategy for dealing with the report’s impending publication the following week, he predicted: “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!!”
The email was sent to Mr Crompton’s assistant chief constable Andy Holt, and to the head of the force’s media team, Mark Thompson.
Addressing the pair as ‘Gents’, he encouraged a proactive approach, using the police website and Twitter, to manage the report’s forthcoming findings.
And suggesting a media bias towards the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters killed at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989, he added: “I just have the feeling the media ‘machine’ favours the families and not us, so we need to be a bit more innovative to have a fighting chance - otherwise we will just be roadkill.”
The contents of the email were revealed as a result of a Freedom of Information request - and were brought to the attention of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright by the chief constable himself.
Mr Wright told The Star last night: “I was very alarmed and very disappointed by the email - and I told the chief constable that is the case.
“He accepted it was an inappropriate and insensitive use of words, and he has apologised. I have accepted that apology.”
He added: “I have repeatedly emphasised my commitment to dealing with Hillsborough and its aftermath in an open, honest and transparent manner.
“In honouring this commitment, and in the interests of transparency, I have informed the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Home Secretary of the existence of the particular email.”
The chief constable issued a statement last night which said: “The email from last September was written prior to the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report.
“It was never intended to cause any offence and I apologise if it has done so.
“Nor was it intended to challenge the integrity and views of those who lost loved ones in the disaster.
“Following the publication of the Panel’s report, I said in the most forthright terms that I supported the findings, and that is still my position.”
Shaun Wright insisted his relationship with the chief constable remains strong.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner it is my duty to hold the chief constable and the force to account in the interests of the public. I accept the chief constable’s regret for his language in this one particular email and his apology.”
He added: “It is disappointing, but this email was written before the report came out. Had it been afterwards, it would have been more damaging - in fact, duplicitous.
“In every other way he is doing a very good job.”