Hillsborough inquests legal bill hits £1m in a month

Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster  Apr 1989:  Photo by TODAY /Rex Features
Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster Apr 1989: Photo by TODAY /Rex Features

Legal costs run up by police involved in the upcoming Hillsborough inquest reached £1 million alone in a month.

New figures show £1,041,717.62 was provided from the public purse in February to pay for lawyers representing eight officers taking part in new inquests for the 96 Liverpool fans who died after being crushed at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium in April 1989.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright

The running total for South Yorkshire Police so far stands at more than 
£2.6 million.

Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, has agreed to requests to fund legal costs being run up by eight former officers, who the coroner Lord Justice Goldring has designated as ‘interested persons’ at the inquests.

The financial impact of that decision has prompted fears money could be diverted from day-to-day policing to pay the former officers’ legal bills.

And costs are likely to continue to escalate, with the inquest set to run at least until the end of the year.

Mr Wright applied to the Home Office for special grant funding to help pay the costs in November – but has yet to receive a response.

A spokesman for Mr Wright said: “We are committed to keeping to a minimum the impact on present day community safety in South Yorkshire arising from the costs of the disaster. There is a close scrutiny of solicitors’ costs as they are received.

“The purpose of the Special Grant Application to the Home Office is intended to defray these costs.

“The funding to date comes from financial reserves.

“These are limited by fiduciary responsibility to ensure an efficient and effective police force for South Yorkshire, and insure the police budget from future pressures.

“Mr Wright regards the loss of life at Hillsborough as a terrible tragedy.

“With the approach of the 25th anniversary of the disaster, he has confirmed he is supporting the Government’s objectives of bringing satisfactory closure to concerns around the events of April 15, 1989, and the period immediately following.”

A Home Office spokesman said a decision on the funding application would be made in due course.