In addition to compensating the families of 96 football fans who died after a crush at Hillsborough football stadium in April 1989, more than 500 others injured in the ground and affected by the ‘cover-up’ of the disaster are to receive compensation.
Saunders Law, which represents 219 of the 601 claimants, said both South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police have agreed to pay compensation for the damage caused by the ‘cover-up’ of the disaster, rather than the tragedy itself.
An independent investigation into the disaster, at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, found that efforts were made to deflect blame for the crush from South Yorkshire Police, which allowed too many fans onto the terraces to prevent crowds gathering outside.
The force sought to blame Liverpool fans for arriving at the stadium late, without tickets and forcing entry.
But it emerged that statements made by officers involved in the policing operation that day were subjected to a process of 'review and alteration'.
The disaster and its cause were initially investigated by officers from West Midlands Police.
South Yorkshire’s Acting Chief Constable, Lauren Poultney, said: “We offer an unreserved apology to those affected by the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath.
“We acknowledge that serious errors and mistakes were made by South Yorkshire Police, both on 15 April 1989 and during the subsequent investigations.
“Those actions on the day of the disaster tragically led to lives being lost and many being injured.
“The force's subsequent failings also caused huge distress, suffering and pain, both to the victims and their families. This is something South Yorkshire Police profoundly regrets.
“Since 2016, we have worked closely and in a constructive manner with the legal representatives of the families affected by the Hillsborough tragedy to agree a scheme to compensate those affected. We know these settlements can never make up for what they have lost and suffered.”
Saunders Law said the civil claim for ‘misfeasance in a public office’ was mounted by victims seeking ‘justice and accountability’ for the ‘deliberate, orchestrated and thoroughly dishonest police cover-up that suppressed the truth’ about the disaster.
The firm said: “The distress and heartache caused by the loss of life, and the injuries caused to those who survived, were made significantly worse by the lies told and the cover-up that followed.
“As a result of the cover-up, that was maintained for nearly 30 years, the victims, both the bereaved and the survivors, and their families and loved ones, suffered additional psychiatric injury. No amount of money can compensate them for the ordeal they have suffered but this settlement acknowledges both the cover-up and its impact upon each of the victims.
“The settlement of these claims marks the end of an unparalleled and extraordinary fight for justice by the victims and their families.”
In September 2012, the then Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, accepted that there had been a police cover-up to ‘minimise’ blame.
Later that year the High Court quashed the verdicts of the original inquests into the deaths of those killed at the disaster.
New inquests were held and it was ruled that the fans had been unlawfully killed.