South Yorkshire Police spend £2.1m on chief's Hillsborough costs
- 14 June 2016
- From the section Sheffield & South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire Police spent at least £2.1m on legal fees representing its suspended Chief Constable David Crompton during the Hillsborough Inquests, the BBC has discovered.
Mr Crompton's barrister alone was paid over £1m to represent him.
Several victims' families complained to the police watchdog about Mr Crompton's conduct during the inquests.
They claim the chief constable "instructed his legal team to pour blame on to Liverpool fans".
South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Dr Alan Billings said the legal costs - which were footed by the taxpayer - were a result of the length of the inquest, which began in March 2014.
BBC News uncovered the costs after analysing thousands of data entries on the South Yorkshire Police's public spending log.
The final figure is likely to be higher as data covering February to April 2016, when the inquest finished, has not yet been published.
The inquests jury concluded all 96 Liverpool football fans who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield were unlawfully killed.
The day after the inquest, Mr Crompton was suspended from service and Dr Billings is currently undertaking proceedings to dismiss him from the service.
Mr Crompton, along with eight former police officers, was awarded concerned persons status by the coroner ahead of the proceedings, entitling him to legal representation paid for by the taxpayer.
Mr Crompton issued an apology for the disaster hours after the conclusions of the inquests and said he accepted the findings.
But in May, Jackson Canter Solicitors acting on behalf of 20 bereaved Hillsborough families submitted a complaint to the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) about Mr Crompton's conduct during the inquest.
They allege he instructed his legal team to try and pour blame onto Liverpool fans meaning the inquest proceedings were lengthened, public money was wasted and the distress of the Hillsborough families heightened.
The IPCC said it is in receipt of the complaint and has been in contact with Dr Billings about determining how best to investigate it.
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son in the disaster, said the process of funding legal fees related to the disaster has been unfair from the beginning.
"It's a disgrace when you think about all the money that has been spent and the police have had over a number of years and we didn't get any help whatsoever apart from these last two years in court," she said.
Dr Billings says the decision about the legal representation of David Crompton was made by the former PCC of South Yorkshire Shaun Wright who resigned from the post amid the fall out from the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal in September 2014 - six months after the inquest started.
"The advice given to me was that if I came in and changed those arrangements in an attempt to save money then I could have opened the force up to future legal challenges, which could have cost us even more money," he said.
In a statement on behalf of Fiona Barton QC it was confirmed that between 1 October 2013 and 26 April 2016 she was paid a total of £1,035,673.33 for her services representing David Crompton during the inquest.
Using other data from the police log and a Freedom of Information request, the BBC has established the remainder of the £2.1m spent representing Mr Crompton went on other individual legal representatives.
Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has called for the creation of a "Hillsborough Law" which would ensure legal funding for bereaved families at inquests where police are involved.
South Yorkshire Police have previously confirmed the total cost of the Hillsbrough Inquest reached £25.1m - of which £20.8m was paid for by the Home Office and £4.3m was paid by the force itself.
Dr Billings expressed his disappointment about the amount of public money spent on the inquest process.
"We'd already had the Hillsborough Independent Panel which reached the conclusion it did," he said.
"I just think it's such a shame the inquests were drawn out for such a long period of time and therefore all of that money, or a great deal of that money, could probably have been saved".