Sheffield tragedy officers win pounds 1.2m damages

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The Independent Online
Fourteen police officers who suffered psychological damage rescuing victims of the Hillsborough disaster were yesterday awarded pounds 1.2m in damages.

All the junior-rank officers had gone into the fenced pens to try to save Liverpool fans in the 1989 tragedy, which put their case into a different category to the unsuccessful claim brought by six other officers last year.

But the award, agreed after South Yorkshire Constabulary, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and the club's engineers admitted negligence, also served to reopen bitterness among victims' families, many of whom received no compensation after watching the tragedy unfold on television.

The officers' solicitor, Simon Allen, said they were still significantly affected by post traumatic stress caused by bringing out the dead and injured from the pens. Five had left the force because of the psychological damage caused.

The settlement, agreed at the door of Sheffield High Court just as the case was to go before a judge, contrasts with last year's claim by the six other officers who had tended injured and dying fans on the pitch, and bodies in a temporary mortuary.

The High Court ruled that they had not been "rescuers" to the same degree as the 14, but this is subject to a hearing at the Court of Appeal next month.

Mr Allen said: "Members of the emergency services are no different to anyone else in that when their emotions are subjected to the gruesome scenes of a tragedy such as Hillsborough they are likely to be mentally affected as a result.

"They accept the reasonable risks of their service, but they should not be expected to deal with the appalling consequences of the negligent actions of others, including their own senior officers."

Although no details were given of individual settlements, yesterday's compensation would average out at pounds 85,000 per officer.

But most of the relatives were denied compensation because they were unable to make a case of negligence.

Joan Traynor, treasurer of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the size of the awards was "outrageous".

Mrs Traynor, who lost two sons in the disaster, said her doctor had advised her she was still suffering from the trauma. She added: "They will also have their pensions and everything else, won't they? We have got nothing at all."

Phil Hammond, the group's secretary, received pounds 7,000 in compensation for the loss of his son. The family was later awarded pounds 24,000 from the pounds 14m Hillsborough Disaster Fund.

Relatives lost a Court of Appeal attempt to get their compensation increased and were blocked from appealing further to the House of Lords.

The Police Federation, which underwrote the officers' legal costs, extended its sympathy to the relatives who had been denied compensation under the law. But Ian Westwood, the federation's national vice- chairman, said: "These junior officers were in no way responsible for the tragic events which occurred. On the contrary, they did everything possible to save lives that day and they witnessed horrific sights."

Mr Westwood said the officers had brought the action partly because the tragedy had been avoidable.