Police chief suspended over Hillsborough disaster

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has been suspended amid claims his force was involved in a '27-year cover-up' over the Hillsborough disaster.

David Crompton makes a statement to the media outside the force's headquarters in Sheffield. Picture: Getty

Pressure had been mounting on David Crompton to resign after jurors delivered an unlawful killing verdict in relation to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans in the 1989 tragedy on Tuesday.

Announcing the suspension yesterday, South Yorkshire’s Police (SYP) and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said he had no choice to but to act “based on the erosion of public trust and confidence”.

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Home Secretary Theresa May had earlier told the Commons that officials could face criminal charges of negligence and perjury over the tragedy.

Dr Billings said: “I have reached this decision with a heavy heart following discussions with David both in the run-up to and following the delivery of the Hillsborough verdicts.

“My decision is based on the erosion of public trust and confidence referenced in statements and comments in the House of Commons this lunchtime, along with public calls for the chief constable’s resignation from a number of quarters.”

The announcement came after shadow home secretary Andy Burnham used a speech in the Commons to call for Mr Crompton to go, saying SYP had been involved in a “27-year cover-up”.

Mr Burnham said the force had gone back on its 2012 public apology following the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and engaged in an “adversial battle” at the fresh inquests.

He said: “Shamefully, the cover-up continued in [the] Warrington courtroom. Millions of pounds of public money were spent re-telling discredited lies.

“Lawyers for retired officers threw disgusting slurs; those for today’s force tried to establish that others were responsible for the opening of the gate.”

He added: “If the police had chosen to maintain its apology, this inquest would have been much shorter.

“But they didn’t and they put the families through hell once again.”

Mr Crompton has already announced his decision to retire in November, with the process of replacing him already begun. But Dr Billings said there was “clearly a difference of perception” between the chief constable and the families of the victims in relation to questions asked at the inquests about whether the fans were to blame.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently examining allegations of a cover-up while the police’s Operation Resolve is investigating the events leading up to the disaster.

The Home Secretary said offences under investigation included gross negligence, manslaughter, misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and perjury.

Replying to Mr Burnham, Mrs May said: “What the families faced was a combination of the state in all its various forms not believing them and all the various, as you said, the various attempts to cover up what really happened, together with other agencies, the media and others and indeed, dare I say it, most of the general public, who believed the stories they read about the fans.

“To have stood against that for so long shows a steel and determination but also an affection for their lost loved ones and passionate desire for justice on behalf of those who died. That is, as I said, extraordinary and I think we will rarely see the like again.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Crompton admitted his force got the policing of the match “catastrophically wrong”. He said SYP would “unequivocally” accept the jury’s findings.