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Bettison solicitor: Case to answer 'not a finding of guilt'

Sir Norman Bettison's solicitor has released a statement on behalf of his client after an IPCC report said he "have a case to answer" over his dealings with his police authority, in the wake of the Hillsborough report.

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. 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.

– John Harding, Partner, Kingsley Napley LLP

Sir Norman Bettison and his Hillsborough involvement

Former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the 1989 Hillsborough 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.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans people died in the Hillsborough disaster
Ninety-six Liverpool fans people died in the Hillsborough disaster Credit: Press Association

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.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel report, revealed numerous failings during and in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster.

It also highlighted police attempts to shift blame for the tragedy to the victims.

Sir Norman was referred to the IPCC over claims that he gave misleading information after the tragedy - and that he tried to influence West Yorkshire Police Authority's decision-making process in relation to the referral.

The Hillsborough report was published last year

The former chief, who has always denied any wrongdoing, resigned from his post last year, saying 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.

He also 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.

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IPCC: Bettison dismissal would have been 'justified'

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. 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.

– IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass
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Bettison: Conduct 'fell so short' of what expected

IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass Credit: PA

"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".

Bettison had case to face for 'abuse of authority'

Former West Yorkshire Police chief constable Sir Norman Bettison would "have a case to answer for gross misconduct" over his dealings with his police authority following the publication of a damning report on the Hillsborough disaster, according to the police watchdog.

The investigation focused on contact between Sir Norman, Fraser Sampson (the Chief Executive of WYPA) and Mark Burns-Williamson (Chair of WYPA).

Sir Norman Bettison resigned from the West Yorkshire Police last October. Credit: Press Association

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.

However, as Sir Norman left the police service in October 2012 he cannot face a disciplinary hearing in which the evidence could be tested. Instead the IPCC is publishing its findings for the public to judge.

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Bettison subject of two IPCC investigations

The police watchdog will today publish a report in alleged misconduct by former West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, in relation to the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been investigating an allegation that he attempted to influence the decision-making process of West Yorkshire Police Authority in respect to investigating his conduct.

He is also the subject of a second IPCC investigation into allegations he gave misleading information after the tragedy, when he was chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police.

Why is Bettison being investigated over Hillsborough?

The IPCC will today publish its report into Sir Norman Bettison following an investigation into whether he supplied misleading information after the Hillsborough tragedy.

Key facts:

  • Bettison was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster
  • A spectator at the match, he was involved in the police investigation into what happened
  • He resigned from West Yorkshire Police in October amid controversy over his handling of the aftermath of the tragedy
  • Sir Norman was referred to the IPCC last year following allegations he "concocted a false story of what happened"
  • He has always strenuously denied any wrongdoing

Read - Sir Norman Bettison resigns after Hillsborough 'cover-up' allegations

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