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South Yorkshire Police chief suspended following Hillsborough verdicts

Published 27/04/2016

A banner is unveiled at St George's Hall in Liverpool after the inquest jury ruled the 96 victims in the Hillsborough disaster had been unlawfully killed
A banner is unveiled at St George's Hall in Liverpool after the inquest jury ruled the 96 victims in the Hillsborough disaster had been unlawfully killed

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has been suspended in the wake of the Hillsborough inquest findings.

South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Alan Billings said he felt he had no choice but to suspend David Crompton, 52, due to his concerns "about the way public trust and confidence was beginning to drain away".

Mr Crompton's suspension came just as thousands of people, including f amilies of the 96 victims of the 1989 disaster, gathered in Liverpool for an emotional commemorative service to reflect on their 27-year quest for justice.

At St George's Hall in the city, crowds applauded the families as they made their way down the steps following the jury's conclusion that fans had been unlawfully killed.

As they walked hand-in-hand, the sea of people chanted: "Justice for the 96."

Many bowed their heads as prayers were said for those who had died, as well as the families, campaigners and the jury, who had "put their lives on hold" for two years.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James, was met with rapturous applause when she took to the stand to thank everyone.

Mr Crompton's suspension, after a four-year tenure, came just a day after he admitted the force got the policing of the match in Sheffield between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest ''catastrophically wrong'' and ''unequivocally'' accepted the inquest jury's landmark verdict of unlawful killing.

But Dr Billings acted after a day of strident criticism of the South Yorkshire force, especially from shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, including some calls for the whole organisation to be disbanded.

The PCC said: " 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."

Dr Billings said: "We had a very brief conversation and all I could do was say to the chief constable that I was suspending him because I was getting increasingly anxious about the way public trust and confidence was beginning to drain away today, so we had to stop that."

Mr Burnham, who has long campaigned for justice for the Hillsborough victims, had earlier asked for the chief constable's resignation in the Commons as he called for all those responsible to be held to account for the 96 unlawful deaths and a "27-year cover-up".

Mr Burnham said the jury's conclusions had finally brought justice and there were three reasons why "something so obvious" took 27 years to establish.

He said: "First, a police force (South Yorkshire) which has consistently put protecting itself above protecting people harmed by Hillsborough.

"Second, collusion between that force and complicit print media.

"Third, a flawed judicial system that gives the upper hand to those in authority over and above ordinary people."

He said that South Yorkshire Police had gone back on its 2012 public apology following the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and engaged in an "adversarial battle" at the fresh inquests.

Home Secretary Theresa May repeated the jury's determinations to a hushed House and outlined the criminal charges that are being investigated.

After sitting for more than two years, the jury found that blunders by South Yorkshire's police and ambulance services "caused or contributed to" the deaths as a result of the disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

The jury also concluded that Liverpool fans were not to blame for what happened.

Replying to Mr Burnham, the Home Secretary 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 that 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."

Dianne Matthews, the sister of victim Brian Matthews, 38, welcomed the suspension.

She told the BBC: "It is the right decision that he (Mr Crompton) has been suspended, because after having such a momentous day yesterday - and we have got the right decision - I think his actions deserve to have a suspension."

South Yorkshire's Deputy Chief Constable Dawn Copley confirmed she will become the acting chief constable.

She said: "The Police and Crime Commissioner has taken the decision today to suspend Chief Constable David Crompton and has asked that I act as Temporary Chief Constable at this time, which I have agreed to do.

"This is a significant day for South Yorkshire Police. However, we are absolutely determined to maintain our focus on delivering the best possible policing services to the communities of South Yorkshire."

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