Hillsborough police chief has charges dropped


Hillsborough police chief has charges dropped

Norman Bettison. Pic: PA
Norman Bettison. Pic: PA

Norman Bettison – the Hillsborough disaster police chief who said Liverpool fans made policing the tragedy “harder than it needed to be” – has had his criminal charges dropped.

He will not be prosecuted for charges of misconduct in a public office which related to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans.

At Preston Crown Court yesterday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the case would be discontinued, citing changes in evidence, including a witness’s death.

The 62-year-old had been charged with four counts of misconduct in a public office, relating to alleged lies he told about his role in the aftermath of the tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died.

Submissions on an application relating to the former Merseyside and West Yorkshire chief constable were heard by judge Peter Openshaw as around a dozen relatives of some of the victims of the disaster sat in the public gallery.

Mr Bettison remained seated after the charges were discontinued as relatives of the victims filed out of court, some making loud comment in his direction.

The court had earlier heard one of the two witnesses the CPS relied on for three of the charges, relating to statements he allegedly made blaming Liverpool fans for the disaster, had since died and “significant contradictions” had come to light in the accounts given by the other witness.

Sarah Whitehouse, prosecuting, said the CPS had a duty to review the evidence and the decision was reached there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.

Talking outside of court, Mr Bettison read out a statement, saying: “The loss of loved ones who will never come home from Hillsborough is an enduring tragedy. Such a devastating loss is deserving of all our sympathies, and that has always included mine. Nothing in my experience over the past six years has done anything to diminish that sympathy.


“My involvement in the events around Hillsborough has often been misrepresented, even in parliament. Since then, I’ve been forced to deny strenuously that I’ve done anything wrong in the aftermath of the disaster. Today’s outcome vindicates that position.”

The alleged lies Mr Bettison was accused of included:

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Untruthfully describing his role in the South Yorkshire Police response as “peripheral” in a comment to then chief inspector of constabulary David O’Dowd, in 1998, when Mr Bettison applied for the job of chief constable in Merseyside.

Lying to Merseyside Police Authority when he said he had never attempted to shift blame for the disaster “on to the shoulders of Liverpool supporters”.

Lying in a statement issued on September 13, 2012, following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, when he said he had never offered any interpretation other than that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause the disaster.

Accused of misconduct over a statement released the following day in which he said he had never “besmirched” Liverpool fans.

Sue Hemming, CPS director of legal services, said: “The CPS has a duty to keep all cases under continuing review. Since the original decision to charge Norman Bettison in June 2017 there have been a number of significant developments which have affected the available evidence.

“These include changes in the evidence of two witnesses and the death of a third witness.

“Our latest review of the evidence has concluded the collective impact of these developments means there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. I appreciate this news will be disappointing for the families and the CPS will meet with them in person to explain the decision.” (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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