POLICE chiefs contemplated sending Sheffield Wednesday a bill to foot the cost of their “service” at Hillsborough – just four days after the tragic FA Cup semi-final which cost 96 lives..
Despite overseeing a heavily criticised police operation later found to have played a major part in the tragedy, by April 19, 1989 the thoughts of South Yorkshire Police top brass were already on being financially rewarded for the work the force provided on the day.
The alarming discussion is captured in minutes of a meeting of police chiefs and legal and insurance representatives mainly focusing on the Taylor public inquiry and compensation claims.
But in the same meeting Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Anderson addresses the issue of recouping the cost of policing the fateful tie between Liverpool and Notts Forest.
Although acknowledging it was an “extremely delicate” matter he makes the point “we did still provide a service”.He is backed up by the force’s second-in-command Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes who refers to the fact the police had a contract with Sheffield Wednesday and how officers had been on duty since 10am – “long before” the tragedy unfolded.
Seeking advice Mr Anderson stated: “Normally we service an account to Sheffield Wednesday for a sum of money in terms of the attendance of police officers.
“We immediately feel that this is extremely delicate, but we did still provide a service.”
Mr Hayes added: “We have entered into a contract with the football club. Clearly we switched modes and stopped policing a football match and started policing a major disaster at some point. A lot of the officers came on duty long before this occurred so we have had people in the ground from 10/11.00 am.”
Mr Anderson chipped back in with: “Have we still a duty to service that club with an account for police services or would this seem insensitive?”
Unsurprisingly a solicitor confirmed it would be “quite insensitive” to dispatch the bill immediately but “if in time the (Police) Authority decides to pursue the debt, we could do this in the future.”
But Mr Anderson stressed: “The point I am making is that if we do not service them with an account we could look as though we are saying that we feel responsible.”
The minutes reveal a bill would normally be sent to Sheffield Wednesday within four weeks.
The matter is postponed after Chief Superintendent Donald Denton stated: “Before we start taking a decision should we have discussions with the FA first.”
The “real cause” of the disaster, according to Lord Justice Taylor’s public inquiry, was “overcrowding” and the “main reason” was “the failure of police control'”.
And the newly-released report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s stated: “From the documents provided to the panel it is clear that the crush at the Leppings Lane turnstiles outside the stadium was not caused by fans arriving ‘late’ for the kick-off.
“The turnstiles were inadequate to process the crowd safely and the rate of entry insufficient to prevent a dangerous build-up of people outside the ground.”