Lawyers for the families of the 96 soccer fans killed in the April 15, 1989, Hillsborough disaster have revealed a civil lawsuit against the South Yorkshire and West Midlands police, filed in 2015.
Suing for 19 million pounds (roughly $27.7 million), the family members and survivors in the lawsuit are alleging the departments misused their powers in office at the time of the disaster.
The suit was filed in 2015, but a court order forced the claimants to wait until the official inquest was complete before bringing the case before a judge.
On April 26, an inquest determined the Liverpool fans, watching their team play against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, were “unlawfully killed” due to police mis-duty and gross negligence of the match commander.
On April 15, 1989, 96 football fans died from being crushed to the point of asphyxiation during the FA Cup semi-final.
All but three victims suffered compression asphyxia; some dying as early as 2:57 p.m. on the day of the match, with the 96th victim—Tony Bland—dying in 1993 after suffering a brain injury at Hillsborough.
“It’s about accountability,” said attorney Nia Williams. “There still hasn’t been an investigation or a finding as to why it took 27 years for this to come out. This is about the cover-up.”
The Saunders Law legal team, who is representing the families and survivors, released a statement; two paragraphs read:
“In addition to the police wrongdoing that caused the deaths, there is evidence of the systematic cover-up intended to transfer the blame for what happened from South Yorkshire Police to the innocent, by spreading lies, doctoring evidence, pressurizing witnesses and suppressing the truth.
“The evidence points to abuse on an industrial scale by both South Yorkshire and West Midlands Police, beyond any ‘one bad apple’ analysis. In addition to actions by individuals, the evidence suggests institutional misfeasance by these bodies directed against our clients and the fans generally.”
Besides the 19 million pounds, criminal charges may be brought against police for an alleged cover-up that the families feel prevented the truth from coming out for 27 years.
The South Yorkshire Police website also posted a statement about the inquest findings.
“On 15th April 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.
“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.”
South Yorkshire’s Police Chief Constable David Crompton was suspended the day after the inquests’ conclusion, just months before he was set to retire.
His full statement on the findings can be found here.