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Two police forces are to pay damages to more than 600 people over a cover-up which followed the Hillsborough disaster, lawyers have said.

The South Yorkshire and West Midlands forces agreed the settlement earlier this year following a civil claim.

Nobody has ever been convicted over police actions following the disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush at a 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

South Yorkshire Police offered an "unreserved apology" to those affected.

Details of the claim were revealed after former Ch Supt Donald Denton, 83, retired Det Ch Insp Alan Foster, 74, and Peter Metcalf, 71, who acted as a solicitor for the force, were acquitted of of perverting the course of justice in a trial in May.

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The men were accused of trying to minimise the blame placed on the force in the aftermath of the disaster by amending police statements.


The trio went on trial but were acquitted of the charges after a judge ruled they had no case to answer.

Hillsborough victims
image captionNinety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of the disaster on 15 April 1989
A spokesman for Saunders Law, the lead solicitors for the group litigation, said the civil claim for misfeasance in a public office was started in 2015.

It was agreed in April but could not be reported until the conclusion of the trial.

While compensation for the 96 victims will go to their bereaved families, damages will also be paid to survivors for the injuries they have suffered and access to a fund for further psychiatric treatment or counselling.

The spokesman said: "[The] victims sought justice and accountability for the deliberate, orchestrated and thoroughly dishonest police cover-up that suppressed the truth about the responsibility of the police and blamed the football supporters for the horrific events that unfolded".

He added there had been "an almost complete failure of the justice system to deliver justice" and called on the government to implement a Hillsborough Law, which would include a duty of candour for public officials.

Alan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf
image captionAlan Foster, Donald Denton and Peter Metcalf were cleared of perverting the course of justice
The disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium, which was later investigated by West Midlands Police, remains the UK's worst sporting disaster.

Many families and survivors have since led a campaign for more than 30 years to discover how and why the victims died.

In 2012, then-chief constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton apologised for a cover-up following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.

New inquests, which concluded in 2016, found that the men, women and children who died were unlawfully killed and fans played no part in the causes of the disaster.

Lawyers said the cover-up caused additional psychiatric injury to the survivors of the disaster and the families of those who died.

Flowers and tributes at Hillsborough memorial
image captionFlowers and tributes were left at the Hillsborough Memorial after the collapse of the trial
The Saunders spokesman said: "The settlement of these claims marks the end of an unparalleled and extraordinary fight for justice by the victims and their families.

"We trust that this settlement will put an end to any fresh attempts to rewrite the record and wrongly claim that there was no cover-up."

Acting Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Lauren Poultney has offered "an unreserved apology to those affected by the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath" and acknowledged "serious errors and mistakes were made".

He added: "The force's subsequent failings also caused huge distress, suffering and pain, both to the victims and their families.

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