'No fair or reasonable basis' for forcing South Yorkshire Police chief out over Hillsborough

Former chief constable David Crompton before his dismissal
Former chief constable David Crompton before his dismissal

There was no 'fair or reasonable basis' for taking the step of forcing South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton out of office, the High Court has heard.

Mr Crompton has challenged a decision taken by Dr Alan Billings, the county's police and crime commissioner, in the wake of April 2016 inquest findings into the deaths resulting from the Hillsborough stadium disaster 27 years before.

A jury concluded police conduct contributed to or caused the deaths of 96 football fans at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium in 1989.

The day after the findings were delivered, the PCC decided to invoke a procedure under which Mr Crompton was suspended and ultimately required to resign that September.

On Tuesday, Hugh Davies QC said Mr Crompton, who had intended to go in November 2016 after 30 years distinguished service, was not involved in his force's underlying failures at Hillsborough or its response to the disaster.

Nor was he implicated in any of the jury's adverse findings, he told Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham.

As chief constable in 2012, he made a public apology on behalf of the force following the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

Counsel said the PCC decided to require his resignation not because of any alleged wrongdoing associated with the underlying events, but because of a press release he issued in response to a question raised by then shadow home secretary Andy Burnham.

Mr Davies said the PCC's assessment was this press release constituted a "serious misjudgment" which had "damaged trust and confidence" in South Yorkshire Police.

Asking the court to quash the decision requiring Mr Crompton to resign, he 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."

Jonathan Swift QC, for the PCC, argued the claim should be dismissed as it was bad on its merits and challenged matters which had been entirely overtaken by the September 2016 decision calling upon Mr Crompton to resign.

He said although that decision was plainly controversial, the assessment fell squarely within the discretion and responsibility available to the PCC as the person with the electoral mandate to hold the chief constable to account for his actions.

The PCC was entitled to conclude public trust and confidence in the chief constable had been damaged by his actions.

He added Mr Crompton had also not established an infringement of his Article 8 Convention rights which relate to respect for private and family life.

The hearing in London is expected to last two days.