Hillsborough police chief 'quit before being dismissed after trying to influence talks over role in disaster'
16:19 GMT, 8 November 2012
Resigned: Sir Norman Bettison resigned after allegedly trying to influence talks over his part in the Hillsborough scandal
One of Britain's most senior police officers, Sir Norman Bettison, resigned after learning he faced a possible dismissal having attempted to influence talks about the role he played in the Hillsborough scandal, documents have revealed.
Sir Norman contacted the chief executive of West Yorkshire Police Fraser Sampson before a meeting at which officials made the decision to refer him to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for alleged misconduct after the Hillsborough Panel’s damning report, according to minutes of the West Yorkshire Police Authority..
The conversation with Sampson would be enough to warrant Sir Norman’s sacking if it was proved he obstructed the ‘integrity of the complaints handling process’, the minutes indicate.
The IPCC had already announced that they were investigating a number of police officers involved in the 1989 disaster.
Sir Norman, who was the chief constable of the West Yorkshire Police until his resignation this month, is included in that list.
The former police chief was accused in the Hillsborough Panel’s report of being one of the main perpetrators in attempting to deflect blame from the police and emergency services to fans at the game.
Last month, the IPCC also announced that it was investigating claims that Sir Norman tried to influence the decision-making process of the police authority’s committee which were investigating the disciplinary matters against its senior officers, according to The Independent.
In the previously unseen minutes obtained by the PoliceOracle.com website via a freedom of information request, it was revealed that Sir Norman was not being accused of attempting to prevent the referral to the IPCC, but how that referral would be made.
According to the minutes, Sampson was asked to give the details of the conversation to the committee deciding Sir Norman’s fate on September 15.
Tragedy: 96 people died during the disaster in the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest
On October 3 – at a private meeting – the minutes indicated that the conversation between Sir Norman and Sampson could result in ‘gross misconduct’ and dismissal if proved true.
When the committee was set to meet again three weeks later, on October 24, Sir Norman, who had led West Yorkshire Police since 2006, resigned, and it is believed he may have been suspended.
Labour MP Maria Eagle has already accused Sir Norman of being part of a ‘black ops’ unit set up to deflect blame from the police in the disaster which left 96 dead.
She also claimed that Sir Norman 'boasted' about cooking up lies to blame Liverpool fans for their part in the disaster.
Sir Norman denies these allegations.
But pressure had been mounting on Sir Norman following the initial publication of the independent panel’s report.
The damning report condemned the police’s response to the incident and their tampering with accounts subsequently.
Sir Norman, who said he had no plans to step down as chief constable in March 2013, said he left ‘not because of any allegations about the past, but because I share the view that this has become a distraction to policing in West Yorkshire now and in the future.’
His resignation means he will not face any misconduct charges, and Sir Norman has said he would cooperate fully with the IPCC inquiry.
Bettison was unavailable for comment on Wednesday evening.
Chaos: The Hillsborough Panel's report condemned the police's handling of the incident both during and after