IPCC slams ex-police chief Bettison
A former chief constable attempted to manipulate his police authority "for his own self interest" in the wake of a damning report into the Hillsborough disaster, the police watchdog has concluded.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Sir Norman Bettison, who resigned his position as the West Yorkshire chief last year, would have had a case to answer for gross misconduct if he had still been a serving officer.
But lawyers acting for Sir Norman pointed out their client has not been found guilty of anything and said the IPCC's inquiry "calls into question the fairness of such a process".
Sir Norman, who has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, resigned in October saying it was because the controversy had become a "distraction to policing in West Yorkshire".
He was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster and attended the match in April 1989 at Sheffield Wednesday's ground as a spectator. After the tragedy, which left 96 Liverpool fans dead, he took part in the subsequent force investigation. Claims about his role in that provoked waves of criticism from the families of those who died and these have dogged his career.
After the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was published last year, with its detailed evidence of South Yorkshire Police attempts to manipulate the story of what happened, Sir Norman came under increased pressure. His police authority asked the IPCC to look at his role following the disaster, and this investigation is continuing.
The new report related to a separate referral to the commission after allegations he interfered with the main referral process. According to the IPCC, the issue was Sir Norman's desire to refer himself to the commission and thus control the process. The report concluded: "It is concerning that his first thoughts appear to have been to protect his own position."
The commission said the former chief constable "had a case to answer for discreditable conduct and abuse of authority, breaches which, if proven in a disciplinary hearing, would amount to gross misconduct as they would justify dismissal". But it accepted that Sir Norman could not face disciplinary proceedings because he is no longer a serving officer.
Sir Norman's solicitor, John Harding, said his client always agreed he should be referred to the IPCC and said he "remains keen to see that the investigation into the substantive matters is progressed as quickly as possible".
Mr Harding stressed the commission's finding was not a finding of guilt and, because there was no disciplinary hearing, Sir Norman did not have the opportunity to call witnesses and challenge evidence. He said his client "is denied the opportunity to put his case and challenge other evidence, which calls into question the fairness of such a process".