The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police admitted the force got the policing of the Hillsborough match ‘catastrophically wrong’ as he accepted the unlawful killing verdicts and apologised to the victims’ families.
David Crompton said relatives of those who died had been failed, and that officers ‘will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of the verdicts’.
He read a contrite statement to waiting journalists and camera crews outside the force’s headquarters in Sheffield, but did not take questions.
Mr Crompton said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that we unequivocally accept the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings reached by the jury in the Hillsborough Inquests.
“On April 15, 1989, South Yorkshire Police got the policing of the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough catastrophically wrong. It was and still is the biggest disaster in British sporting history. That day 96 people died and the lives of many others were changed forever. The force failed the victims and failed their families.
“Today, as I have said before, I want to apologise unreservedly to the families and all those affected.”
There are two ongoing criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster - focusing on the tragedy itself and allegations of corruption in the aftermath - that are expected to be completed in December or January.
Mr Crompton added: “These inquests have been the longest inquests in British legal history, with nearly 300 days of evidence heard. Whilst these have been lengthy and difficult proceedings, they have once and for all provided a fresh opportunity to explore all of the available evidence about what happened. This has enabled the jury to reach the verdicts that they have today.
“The Hillsborough disaster changed the way in which major sporting events are policed and very many lessons have been learnt. With improvements in training, communications and technology, it is almost impossible to consider how the same set of circumstances could arise again today. We will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of the verdicts.
“We recognise that this is an important day for the families of those who died at the Hillsborough disaster and for everyone affected by what happened. They have waited 27 years for this outcome. Our thoughts are with them.”
Chief Superintendent Tim Jackson, national secretary of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, said: “The inquests have been a very long and extremely difficult process for everyone involved, and our thoughts and our sympathies are with the families of those who died in this tragedy.
“Even though the inquests have concluded, there are ongoing investigations by the IPCC and Operation Resolve which involve former members of the Association who we are supporting.
“We are unable to make any further comment until these investigations are complete.”
A statement from lawyers Burton Copeland on behalf of retired senior South Yorkshire Police officers, former deputy chief constable Peter Hayes, former assistant chief constable Stuart Anderson and former assistant chief constable Walter Jackson, said: “Following the announcement of the findings in the Hillsborough inquests, Peter Hayes, Stuart Anderson and Walter Jackson sincerely hope the families have found some solace and closure, following the tragic loss of so many loved ones.
“Our three clients have long since retired from the police service, Peter Hayes having completed 37 years’ service, Stuart Anderson and Walter Jackson 35 years’ service each. All three co-operated fully with the inquests and gave evidence to the jury, transcripts of which are fully available.
“The media are asked to bear in mind that our clients are all in their late 70s and each of them suffer medical conditions, some of which have been disclosed to the coroner.
“There are further ongoing investigations, in view of which all three have been advised that they should refrain from making any further comment about this terrible tragedy.”
Bassetlaw MP John Mann has called for the South Yorkshire Police force to be closed down and reconfigured.
He said: “Nobody should pre-judge ongoing inquiries into the police, but whatever conclusions they reach, the credibility of the institution of South Yorkshire Police has been irreparably damaged.
“It needs a new identity and more importantly a new ethos and ethics. South Yorkshire police should be disbanded.
“There are many hardworking police officers and staff currently working for South Yorkshire Police who have joined in recent years and they deserve a fresh start.
“There are two clear options to bring this about – either by creating a police force based on Sheffield City Region or a merger with West Yorkshire Police.”