Legal bill could hit policing fear

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.
Sheffield MP Clive Betts.
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South Yorkshire should not be forced to pay the price for defending former police officers caught up in new inquiries into the Hillsborough disaster, an MP has urged.

Clive Betts has called for the Government to intervene after an investigation revealed more than £1.5 million in legal costs has been run up on behalf of former senior officers ahead of fresh inquests due to begin on March 31 into the deaths of the 96 football fans who lost their lives.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright agreed to requests to fund representation for eight former members of the force.

Mr Wright made a request for Special Grant funding to the Home Office on November 5 but has yet to receive a response.

So far, £1,578,779.23 has been paid to law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, which is representing some of the group.

Meanwhile, legal costs for South Yorkshire Police currently stand at £225,320.

Mr Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, who was at the game on the day of the disaster in 1989, said: “My concern as an elected representative is whatever the costs of the inquests and the inquiries, the public of South Yorkshire should not have to pay through a lower level of policing.

“It would be unfair on ordinary residents who are not responsible for anything that happened to have their police service lessened because of it.

“This is a particular set of circumstances with inquests after this length of time and I don’t think the ordinary people of South Yorkshire should bear the costs.

“The Government should reflect on that and the PCC’s request seriously.”

A spokesman for South Yorkshire PCC said: “The commissioner has only agreed to litigation support and legal representation relating to the coronial inquests. Where approval is granted an invoice is received following the completion of legal work.”