Payouts of up to £250,000 for police at Hillsborough

Police officers traumatised while on duty at the 1989 Hillsborough football ground disaster, which left some of them unable to work, are to receive compensation of up to £250,000 each. The news is likely to anger relatives of the victims who tried to obtain similar compensation for post-traumatic stress and were ruled by a judge not to be entitled unless they were parents or siblings and had been inside the ground rather than watchingthe tragedy live on television.

Liability is shared between South Yorkshire Police, which was in charge of policing the ground, and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and its engineers, Eastwood and Partners, who shared the blame for the tragedy on the terracing during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989. Ninety-six spectators died in the crush at the Liverpool end of the ground.

The Municipal Mutual insurance company, insurer for all three defendants, has conceded liability in the cases of 14 officers who were trapped inside the pens where the fans died. Another 23 cases are still to be contested at the High Court in Sheffield in a case listed to begin on 27 March.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed yesterday that liability had been accepted in 14 cases and the insurance company was trying to negotiate out-of-court settlements.

The 37 cases are all backed by the Police Federation at an estimated cost so far of £500,000.The officers ranged in rank at the time of the disaster from constable to inspector. Simon Allen, from the law firm Russell, Jones and Walker, which is representing the officers, said yesterday that 15 of the 37 officers had been medically retired. A quarter were women and both male and female claimants were suffering recurring nightmares, nervous exhaustion and depression.

Compensation is likely to range from £10,000 up to £250,000, according to the degree of injury and the estimated loss of future earnings.

Richard Wells, who took over as Chief Constable of South Yorkshire 15 months after the Hillsborough tragedy, told a Samaritans meeting in Sheffield last year that officers were still abandoning their careers for medical reasons because of the disaster.