David Hirst looks at today's developments, following the ruling from the IPCC on Sir Norman Bettison's conduct in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster.
The chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group has reacted to the IPCC's finding that former West Yorkshire police chief Sir Norman Bettison "has a case to answer" for his actions in the wake of the Hillsborough report.
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son, James, in the disaster, said it was "another step on the road to justice" for the 96 victims.
"In the IPCC's own words, this was gross misconduct and, in my mind, that is a very serious offence and the fact that he resigned should not mean that this report is the end of it"
"We want to see him stripped of his honours - his knighthood and his Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
"I believe he resigned to protect his pension and his behaviour has shown he is not deserving of that pension."
The West Yorkshire Police Authority referred Sir Norman’s conduct to the IPCC on 9 October 2012, concerning his alleged attempt to influence the Authority’s decision making in the days following the publication of the Hillsborough Report. I have provided evidence, along with the Chief Executive of the former Police Authority to this investigation and the findings of the IPCC are set out clearly in the report published today.
This is a difficult time for the victims and families of the Hillsborough disaster,who rightly want to see justice done and those responsible for the tragicevents held to account. However, there is a much wider ongoing IPCC investigation into other matters arising from the Hillsborough Report and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this matter at this stage to avoid prejudicing the final report and outcome.
– West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson
As your Police and Crime Commissioner I will do everything I can to ensurethat the people of West Yorkshire continue to have the trust and confidencein their police force that they rightly expect and deserve and, as I haveannounced, I will be launching an independent review into police complaintsand conduct.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, says he will do everything he can to ensure that the people of West Yorkshire continue to have the trust and confidence in their police force that they "rightly expect and deserve".
The IPCC has recognised that my client, Sir Norman Bettison, did himself wish to be investigated by the IPCC in connection with allegations made in respect of Hillsborough. He remains keen to see that the investigation into the substantive matters is progressed as quickly as possible. The IPCC has decided that it considers my client acted improperly in seeking approval from the Police Authority to refer himself to the IPCC. The decision that there is a case to answer, is not a finding of guilt.
This point is accepted, explicitly, in the foreword of the IPCC report and it therefore sits, uncomfortably, with some of the comments in the investigator's report, made after an incomplete investigation. Sir Norman voluntarily attended interview, provided a written statement and invited the IPCC to interview witnesses.
– John Harding, solicitor for Sir Norman Bettison
Since there can be no formal misconduct hearing my client is denied the opportunity to call those witnesses, which the IPCC declined to interview, and is denied the opportunity to put his case and challenge other evidence, which calls into question the fairness of such a process.
Sir Norman was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster. He attended the match at Sheffield Wednesday's ground as a spectator but, after the tragedy, he was involved in the subsequent force investigation.
His involvement in that inquiry has provoked waves of allegations and criticism from the families of those who died and has dogged his career, which included a stint as the chief constable of Merseyside.
Following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report last year, Sir Norman was referred to the IPCC over claims that he gave misleading information - and that he tried to influence West Yorkshire Police Authority's decision-making process in relation to the referral.
He resigned as the West Yorkshire chief in October, saying it was because the controversy had become a "distraction to policing in West Yorkshire". In a statement issued through the police authority at the time, Sir Norman said he had never blamed the fans for the tragedy.
And he dismissed a claim first highlighted by Merseyside MP Maria Eagle that he had once bragged to a fellow student in a pub about "concocting" the police version of events, describing the allegation as "both incredible and wrong".
At the time of his resignation, Sir Norman said the police authority and some of the candidates in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections made it clear that they wanted him to go.
The chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, Jon Christopher, told Calendar:
"Clearly Sir Norman is no longer a serving officer. It is now open to the public debate to see what, if anything, can be done against him if that's the will of the public."
"It was the IPCC's view at the start of the investigation, as it was the view of his Police Authority, that Sir Norman's actions, if proven, fell so far short of what is expected of a Chief Constable that dismissal would be justified.
"The evidence uncovered during the investigation supports that view".
As Sir Norman Bettison left the police service in October 2012 he cannot face a disciplinary hearing in which the evidence could be tested. Instead the IPCC has published its findings for the public to judge.
The Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath have become synonymous in the public consciousness with allegations of police attempts to cover-up the truth, manipulate messages and deflect blame. Sir Norman is facing investigation in relation to allegations that he played a key part in this. We do not pre-judge the findings of that investigation.
However, given the effect that those allegations have had on the public perception of him and policing generally, his attempts to manipulate and manage the perception of the referral of complaints about him, for his own self-interest, is particularly concerning. It is also conduct that falls far short of what should be expected of any Chief Constable. It was the IPCC's view at the start of the investigation, as it was the view of his Police Authority, that Sir Norman's actions, if proven, fell so far short of what is expected of a Chief Constable that dismissal would be justified.
– IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass
The evidence uncovered during the investigation supports that view. While we cannot bring this case to misconduct proceedings, we can publish the evidence and our conclusions, so that the public can judge for themselves. This case should also serve as a salutary reminder to chief officers everywhere of how much public confidence in policing is damaged when the conduct of leaders is called into question. "
The investigation focussed on contact between Sir Norman, Fraser Sampson (the Chief Executive of WYPA) and Mark Burns-Williamson (Chair of WYPA) and whether there was any attempt by Sir Norman to improperly influence, intercept, delay and/or distort the deliberations of the Authority.
While it was evident Sir Norman made no attempt to prevent the referral happening, the IPCC investigation concluded that he attempted to manipulate the public perception of the referral process for his own self interest.
As a result the IPCC concluded Sir Norman 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.