The government will give up to £5 million to South Yorkshire Police to help pay officers’ legal costs at ongoing inquests into the Hillsborough disaster.
This followed a threat that some officers could withdraw cooperation.
SYP’s legal bill for legal representation at the inquests is more than £20 million so far. The government has previously handed over £14.5 million. This was largely to cover the costs of former senior officers including former SYP chief superintendent David Duckenfield.
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has issued several warnings about the costs.
A report to South Yorkshire’s police and crime panel last month warned that the PCC could “reconsider the level of funding” to officers receiving financial assistance.
It went on, “This may well trigger the threat of legal challenge and/or interested persons withdrawing from the Hillsborough Inquests which risks the inquests continuing to a proper resolution for all concerned.”
Pathology evidence is heard on Hillsborough victims
Fresh inquests into the Hillsborough football disaster resumed on Wednesday of last week. Some 96 Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at the Sheffield stadium in April 1989.
The inquests are hearing pathology evidence relating to each victim.
Marian McCabe was 21 when she died after being crushed. She went into pen 3 at around 12.30pm.
Gary Oyitch, who was also in pen 3, said Marian was alive at 2.51pm because he spoke to her. Martin Malone, also in pen 3, said she was alive at 2.57pm.
Several witnesses described Marian looking blue. Professor Jerry Nolan told the court, “As far as we can ascertain, there was no formal assessment for signs of life.”
He said her colour suggested low oxygen levels but added, “We can’t say for sure that she was not breathing at all. We can’t say for sure that she did not have a heartbeat.”
Marian was confirmed dead at 4.09pm.
Nolan confirmed that a casualty who wasn’t breathing but had a heartbeat would have needed mouth to mouth resuscitation or oxygen from a mask or cylinder.
The court saw footage from 3.17pm. It showed Marian in a pile of casualties at the front of the pen.
Nolan said it was “possible” that Marian could have survived had she been removed from the pen and given treatment quickly.
He said, “If she had been rendered unconscious because of that compression force and because of her very low oxygen levels then there is a good possibility that she may – that she would have survived.
“I don’t think you could say definitely.”
Dr Nat Cary referred to an autopsy report describing cerebral oedema – brain swelling due to excess water – and coning. He said both would be hard to diagnose at autopsy.
Christine Jones also died after being crushed at Hillsborough. Police officer Lillian Sosnowski recovered Christine from the pen but didn’t check for a pulse or breathing.
Other witnesses said they checked for vital signs but found none. Christine was confirmed dead by a doctor at 4.15pm. Dr Soar said he thought the timescale during which she died was between 3pm and 4.15pm.
He said he thought that Christine was “most likely” dead when she was removed from the pen.
The court was shown a photograph of 15 year old Peter Harrison in pen 3 at 3.03pm.
Professor Nolan said it gave the impression that Peter was “conscious” because his head hadn’t flopped to one side.
The court heard that police officer Norman Lewis performed “cursory” checks on 21 year old victim Joe McCarthy including checking his wrist for a pulse. Dr Soar said checking for a pulse in the wrist was not as reliable as checking for one in the neck.
He said, “I don’t have confidence in the reliability of the assessment.”
The court also heard that the youngest victim, ten year old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was found to have no heartbeat when he was in hospital.
Dr Cary said that for many victims, including Jon-Paul, it was impossible to say whether the heart stopped beating at the ground or whether they were simply unconscious.
The inquests continue.