South Yorkshire Police commissioner stands by decision to sack former chief constable

David Crompton.
David Crompton.

South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner has stood by his decision to sack the force's former chief constable - despite losing a court battle over the move.

Dr Alan Billings sacked South Yorkshire's former chief constable David Crompton in 2016 over comments he made in the wake of the inquests into the deaths of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster.

Dr Alan Billings.

Dr Alan Billings.

Mr Crompton was suspended and then asked to resign amid claims that he appeared to justify the questioning of the fans' conduct at the game during the hearing.

But lawyers for the former police chief took the case to the High Court claiming there was no 'fair or reasonable basis' for taking the 'draconian' step of forcing him out of his job.

Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham, sitting in London on Friday, ruled in Mr Crompton's favour.

They ruled that the 'final decision to require the chief constable's resignation was wholly disproportionate'.

Despite this, Mr Billings has stood by his decision.

Speaking after the hearing, he said: "I think the decision I took originally from my perspective was the right one in those circumstances.

"It was a very, very difficult period for South Yorkshire Police. I believe that what I did then was the right thing to do to stop further criticism of the chief constable and the force that was coming at us all the time, but now I have of course got to think about what the court said."

A jury concluded that police conduct contributed to or caused the deaths of the football fans in the stadium disaster in 1989 and the families of those who died had complained that a line of questioning by South Yorkshire Police during the inquests was designed to try and blame the fans.

After the inquests, it was claimed that Mr Crompton appeared to justify the questioning of the fans' conduct.

Dr Billings said the statement showed Mr Crompton did not 'grasp the gravity of the situation' and that it was 'insensitive and damaged both the force and the Chief Constable himself'.

But Mr Crompton challenged the decision and took his case to judicial review in the High Court.

Hugh Davies QC, representing Mr Crompton, who had intended to retire in November 2016 after 30 years' service, stressed he was not involved in his force's underlying failures at Hillsborough 27 years earlier or its response to the disaster.

Nor was he implicated in any of the jury's adverse findings.

As chief constable in 2012, he made a public apology on behalf of the force following the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which laid bare a police cover-up after the disaster.

Asking the High Court to quash the decision to sack Mr Crompton, his barrister said: "The claimant submits that the defendant had no fair or reasonable basis for taking the draconian step of forcing him out of office, and that the decision was unlawful."