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South Yorkshire Police Chief Suspended Over Hillsborough Inquest Response

Andy Burnham MP said Chief Constable David Crompton's position had become "untenable" following the conclusion of the inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster.

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Chief Constable David Crompton speaks to media outside the South Yorkshire police HQ in Sheffield on Tuesday after the Hillsborough inquest found that police mistakes caused the death of 96 fans.

The chief constable of South Yorkshire police, David Crompton, has been suspended over the way in which the force responded to the inquest of 96 football fans who died in the Hillsborough stadium disaster in April 1989.

South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said he had "no choice" but to suspend Crompton for his actions in "the run-up to and the delivery" of the inquest verdicts.

Billings said he made the decision "with a heavy heart" 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 including local MPs".

Earlier on Wednesday, MPs took part in a debate on the findings of the inquest in which the force was accused of taking part in a "27-year cover-up" surrounding the disaster.

Full statement on David Crompton's suspension #Hillsborough #starlive

Crompton had been in the role since April 2012 and was due to retire in November this year. He is suspended with immediate effect on full pay.

The move comes after the force received strong criticism for how it defended itself throughout the two-year inquest, which on Tuesday concluded that police mistakes were responsible for the unlawful killing of the fans.

The Liverpool supporters had been accused of contributing to the cause of the crush in police and media reports at the time, by arriving late and rushing through the barriers and by turning up drunk. But the inquest conclusively and finally ruled that this was a falsehood.

After the inquest's conclusion, Crompton issued a statement in which he accepted the findings and apologised "unreservedly" for the force's failings.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, but before Crompton's suspension, the force published another statement explaining why it defended itself at the inquest and why its defence appeared to contradict an apology it made in 2012 after a landmark report outlined how police mistakes led to the disaster.

At around the same time, Andy Burnham, the Labour MP for Leigh and shadow home secretary, who has campaigned on behalf of the families, gave an emotional speech in the House of Commons, telling a packed chamber that the force's leadership was "rotten to the core" and that it faced questions over why public money was spent on repeating "lies" about the fans at the inquest.

He said the force had contradicted its apology following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in 2012 in order to defend itself.

He said: "Does the home secretary agree that because of his handling of this inquest, the position of the chief constable of South Yorkshire is now untenable? Does she further agree that the problems go deep?"

He said: "Shamefully the cover-up continued in this Warrington courtroom. Millions of pounds of public money were spent retelling discredited lies against Liverpool supporters.

"Lawyers for retired officers threw disgusting slurs around; those [lawyers] for today’s force tried to establish that others were responsible for the opening of the gate. If the police had chosen to maintain their apology this inquest would have been much shorter. But they didn’t and they put the families through hell once again."

He said the NHS, through the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which also contested elements of the inquest, was "guilty of the same thing".

Speaking earlier, home secretary Theresa May told the house the families of the 96 fans who died at Hillsborough had "suffered the injustice of hearing the victims and their loved ones and supporters being blamed".

She said: "I do not think it is possible for any of us to truly understand what they have been through.

"Not only in losing their loved ones in such horrific circumstances that day, but to hear finding after finding over 27 years telling them something that they believed to be fundamentally untrue. They have quite simply never given up."

May confirmed that the possible criminal charges that could be brought against those responsible for both the disaster and an alleged subsequent cover-up included manslaughter, misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice, perjury, as well as health- and safety-related offences.

But she stressed that the decision on whether to bring charges was a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service, which expects to receive evidence files from two criminal investigations by the end of the year.

In the same debate, Burnham also called for reforms to the coroners' court system to ensure that bereaved families have the same access to legal representation as public bodies.

"Why should public bodies be able to spend public money like water to protect themselves when families have no such help?" he asked. "This, the longest [inquest] case in English legal history, must mark a watershed in how people are treated.

"One reason this inquest recorded a different result [to the quashed 1990 inquest] was because the families had the best lawyers in the land. If they could have afforded them back in 1990 history might have been very very different."

And Burnham also called for the government to start phase two of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, which would have investigated the media's relationship with the police but was shelved following the conclusion of part one in 2012.

May said she and her Hillsborough adviser, bishop James Jones, would consider the question of coroners' court funding, and that part two of Leveson would only start once criminal proceedings relating to media malpractice had ended.

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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