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Lawyers representing Hillsborough families reveal lawsuit

LONDON — Lawyers representing some of the families of 96 soccer fans crushed to death in a crowded stadium in 1989 have filed a civil suit against two British police forces, alleging misuse of power in office.

The lawsuit —filed by Saunders Law on behalf of several hundred family members and survivors — was revealed Thursday after an inquest earlier this week determined the fans were unlawfully killed.

"The evidence points to abuse on an industrial scale by both South Yorkshire and West Midlands Police, beyond any 'one bad apple' analysis," the firm said in a statement.

In addition to actions by individuals, the firm alleged that evidence suggests institutional actions. Saunders said the claims concern actions intended to wrongly blame the dead and Liverpool Football Club supporters for the tragedy.

Earlier this week, a jury found that police and emergency services were to blame for the April 15, 1989, disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. The decision exonerating the crowd brought solace to families who had been campaigning for 27 years to have their loved ones cleared of wrongdoing.

The suit was filed last year, but a High Court order prevented publication of any information about it until the inquests had ended in order to avoid prejudicing the proceedings. The claims were also stayed until the verdicts were delivered. The firm will now move the claims forward.

"It's about accountability," said attorney Nia Williams. "There still hasn't been an investigation or a finding as to why it took 27 years for this to come out. This is about the coverup."

Pressure is building to bring criminal charges for the blunders by police and the coverup that prevented the families of the victims from learning the truth for so long. Prosecutors may take a year to consider the matter.

At least one public official has been suspended: David Crompton, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police. Lawmaker Andy Burnham said Crompton's position became untenable after he allowed officers to once again blame fans during a second inquest, prolonging the agony of the families.

Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

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