Hillsborough police challenge court ruling

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Six police officers who became psychologically ill because of the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium tragedy will today seek to establish a legal right to compensation in a landmark case before the Court of Appeal.

The six officers, most of whom tended to injured and dying fans on the pitch and to bodies in a temporary mortuary, are challenging a High Court ruling last year that the role they played during the horror did not entitle them to damages, despite an admission of negligence by the three defendants in the action - the South Yorkshire force, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, and the engineers Eastwood & Partners.

The ruling, by Mr Justice Waller at the High Court in Sheffield, contrasts with last month's pounds 1.2m out-of-court settlement for 14 other officers involved in the disaster, on 15 April 1989, which claimed 96 lives. They fought to rescue Liverpool fans from being crushed to death in the mayhem within the pens at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough ground.

The six - PC Mark Bairstow, 46; PC Anthony Beavis, 48; PC Geoffrey Glave, 46; DC Ronald Hallam, 47; Sgt Janet Smith; and Insp Henry White - who all fell victim to post- traumatic stress disorder, will argue through their lawyers that the judge was wrong to rule they were not close enough to the rescue scene and had not been placed beyond the normal call of duty.

The validity of another 17 officers' claims - and any future one by emergency service members - turns on the outcome of today's test case. Simon Allen, of the solicitors Russell Jones & Walker - which is handling the cases on behalf of the Police Federation - said: "Why should it make any difference whether officers dealt with dying or dead people inside or outside the pens? It is an incredibly artificial distinction. Some of the six gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"Like the 14, they accepted the normal risks of their service but were faced with dealing with the quite exceptional and gruesome consequences of the negligent actions of others, for which they were in no way responsible."

A ruling for the officers will be bound to reopen wounds among bereaved families, many of whom received only modest compensation or none at all.