New hope for officers after Hillsborough

Police officers who lost a damages claim for post traumatic stress syndrome contracted as a result of their involvement in the Hillsborough football disaster are hoping to benefit from last week's out-of-court damages settlement awarded to other officers who were at the incident.

Simon Allen, a partner in Russell Jones & Walker, the firm acting for the officers who lost the claim, said the outcome of the £1.2 million settlement will encourage those who work in the emergency services to come forward when they are suffering post-traumatic stress.

Lawyers say the grounds for post-traumatic stress disorder claims are quite specific. They must have been personally involved in a traumatic event, or witnessed it in person. The six officers, who were not in the pen at Hillsborough but on the stadium grounds administering first aid, lost their claim for damages last year – Frost v Chief Constable Of South Yorkshire – but they are taking the case to appeal on 15 July.

Allen said the recent settlement may help the officers in their appeal, though it has not changed the substantive law because it was an out-of-court settlement.

Allen hoped the Law Commission's forthcoming paper on post-traumatic stress syndrome and psychiatric illness will address the problems that Hillsborough brought to light.

A source at the Law Commission said the recent ruling will focus interest on this field. A final paper, a conclusion to a paper published in March 1995, Liability For Psychiatric Illness, will be released early next year.