• Hillsborough

Hillsborough police chief steps down

ESPN staff
October 24, 2012
Sir Norman Bettison has resigned from his role © PA Photos

West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has resigned from his role in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

The resignation comes ahead of a West Yorkshire Police Special Committee meeting on Wednesday which was scheduled to consider his role in the unfolding events of the 1989 disaster.

Bettison had been under growing pressure ever since the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was published last month and he is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

In a statement released on Wednesday through the authority he stated that he had never blamed the fans for the tragedy. The statement read: "First, and foremost, the Hillsborough tragedy 23 years ago left 96 families bereaved and countless others injured and affected by it.

"I have always felt the deepest compassion and sympathy for the families, and I recognise their longing to understand exactly what happened on that April afternoon. I have never blamed the fans for causing the tragedy.''

Bettison went on to dismiss reports of a conversation he had in a pub in which he allegedly said he was "concocting'' a story for South Yorkshire Police.

"The suggestion that I would say to a passing acquaintance that I was deployed as part of a team tasked to 'concoct a false story of what happened', is both incredible and wrong," he said. "That isn't what I was tasked to do, and I did not say that.''

Bettison said the police authority and some of the candidates in the forthcoming IPCC elections made it clear that they wanted him to go.

"I do so, 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," he said.

West Yorkshire Police Authority vice-chairman Les Carter confirmed the resignation on Wednesday.

"I can confirm that the Police Authority has accepted Sir Norman's resignation with immediate effect," he said. The media attention and IPCC investigation is proving to be a huge distraction for the force, at a time when it is trying to maintain performance and make savings of £100 million. We therefore believe that his decision is in the best interest of the communities of West Yorkshire.

"Sir Norman has been West Yorkshire's Chief Constable since 2006. It should be recognised that Sir Norman has served West Yorkshire well. He has reduced crime, increased confidence in policing and made a huge contribution to neighbourhood policing. On behalf of the Police Authority, I would like to thank him for what he has achieved here and wish him the best for the future.''

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, welcomed the resignation and demanded that Bettison's pension should be frozen while the investigation takes place into the police cover-up highlighted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

"I'm absolutely delighted he's gone but as far as I am concerned he should have been sacked," she said. "I would now like to know what payments and pension he's going to get. Any financial benefits should be frozen until the outcome of the investigation into the cover-up.

"This is not the end of it, the next thing is to make sure his role is properly investigated.''

Mrs Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, said the families had "no vendetta'' against the former chief constable.

"He's not the only one who we believe took part in this cover-up. But as a senior officer he should have been honest from the very beginning,'' she added. "He allowed the families to suffer for 23 years while knowing the truth all along.''

At the time of the tragedy Bettison was a South Yorkshire Police inspector who attended the match as a spectator and later took part in an internal inquiry.

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