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The inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters moves into a new phase as the coroner hears details about each of the victimsRead the full story ›
Sir Norman Bettison told a jury today of 'regret' over remarks he made about the Liverpool fans' behaviour at Hillsborough.
But his statement appeared to fall short of an apology, and implied that his remarks reflected his "honestly held beliefs".
Bettison's statement was released following the Hillsborough Independent Panel findings in September 2012.
In that statement the former South Yorkshire Chief Inspector said "..that fans' behaviour... made the job of the police in the crush outside the Leppings Lane turnstile more difficult than it needed to be."
He told the jury today that he "didn't need to mention the fans at all."
It was hurried, ill thought out and wrong at that time... It was a summary of my honestly held beliefs, it had been my mantra for 23 years... but there's a time and a place
I regret putting out that statement... in the terms that I did, at the time that I did.
But while clarifying that he did not believe Liverpool fans caused the disaster, he did not withdraw the specific allegation that fans impeded the police on duty.
Bettison will resume giving evidence on Tuesday next week.
Former Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison told the inquest of a meeting held about Hillsborough ahead of a forthcoming debate in Parliament about the disaster.
Bettison denied the meeting, held on October 3, 1989 with senior officers and Tory MP Michael Shersby, was to "furnish the MP with material in advancement of a particular position" before the debate.
He said South Yorkshire Police at the time was a "force on its knees" and the South Yorkshire Police Federation had invited the Chief Constable to "address the troops".
But he agreed that officers had a "sense of grievance" with an interim report from Lord Justice Taylor, which was critical of police.
He said that a number of officers told of their experiences on the day and made "derogatory" comments about fans.
Sir Norman said: "It felt like catharsis. It seemed to me it was a question of allowing people to get something off their chest, to allow them to move on."
A month later Sir Norman was invited to give a presentation to MPs at Parliament, including Mr Shersby, Irvine Patnick, former Tory MP for Sheffield Hallam, Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell and Labour's Keith Vaz.
A Chief Inspector said to have played a key role in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster drafted a note briefing officers for an inquiry, the inquest heard today.
Jonathan Hough, counsel for the coroner took Sir Norman Bettison through the note he drafted for junior officers to prepare them for the Taylor Inquiry in May 1989.
The note said that it was an "opportunity to put our case to the inquiry" and reminded officers that "hearsay evidence and opinion are perfectly admissible".
Bettison told the court: "I thought that might be worth inclusion... so officers were not taken aback by that."
He added that by 'our' case he meant the case of the whole force.
Whenever in the officers' experience there's an internal inquiry set up, somebody at the end of the day is going to get shafted.
Former Chief Inspector Sir Norman Bettison denied going to a meeting days after the Hillsborough disaster to plan how to shift the blame from officers.
Clive Davis, a former inspector at South Yorkshire Police, had earlier told the Hillsborough inquests that Bettison encouraged him to attend the meeting in the mess of the Force HQ because it "could be career-enhancing".
But questioned by Jonathan Hough, counsel for the coroner, at the inquest today, Bettison said: "I attended no meeting on the 17th of April. I gave [Davis] no such encouragement."
Asked whether his then senior officer, Terry Wain, ever told a meeting that he was seeking to blame Liverpool fans, the former Chief Inspector told the court: "Mr Wain never said anything that resembled those remarks. Mr Davis' account is untrue."
A senior policeman, said to have played a key role in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, has denied allegations there was a plot to bin the blame on drunken Liverpool fans.
Taking to the stand to give evidence at the inquests, Sir Norman Bettison - who was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time - refuted claims that he revealed the plan during a conversation in a bar.
ITV News correspondent Damon Green reports:
Former police chief Sir Norman Bettison has told an inquest of what information he learned in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
He is being questioned by coroner's counsel Jonathan Hough QC.
JH: Were you aware that the exit gates at Leppings Lane had been opened shortly before the disaster?
NB: Yes, I was
JH: And on police authority?
NB: Yes, I was
JH: In those early days did you become aware of what David Duckenfield had initially said to FA officials about the gate having stormed by fans?
NB: Yes, I did.
The counsel for the coroner overseeing the Hillsborough inquests has begun his questioning of the man who was chief constable of West Yorkshire and Merseyside police forces at the time of the disaster.
Sir Norman Bettison confirmed to Jonathan Hough QC that he was at Hillsborough for the match, as a spectator.
Asked when he realised what was happening, he told the court:
I noticed PC Marsh and another officer carrying a young boy to a spare portion of the pitch directly below where I was sitting and the two officers and a man dressed in civilian clothes, who I later learned to be a doctor, gave oral resuscitation and chest compressions in my presence – in my vision.
It was at that point that I realised that this was something very serious.