Police watchdog says former West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison would have case to answer for gross misconduct over Hillsborough disaster

Former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Sir Norman Bettison
Former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police Sir Norman Bettison

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has concluded Sir Norman Bettison would have a case to answer for gross misconduct following an investigation into an allegation that he attempted to influence a referral by West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA) following the Hillsboroiugh disaster.

The IPCC independently investigated the former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable’s actions in relation to the process by which complaints about his actions in relation to the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster were referred to the IPCC.

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.

The IPCC says while it was evident Sir Norman made no attempt to prevent the referral happening, its 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.

However, as Sir Norman left the police service in October 2012 he can not face a disciplinary hearing in which the evidence could be tested.

Instead the IPCC says it is publishing its findings for the public to judge.

IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass said: “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 can not 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.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson said: “The West Yorkshire Police Authority referred Sir Norman’s conduct to the IPCC on October 9, 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 tragic events 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.

“As your Police and Crime Commissioner I will do everything I 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 and, as I have announced, I will be launching an independent review into police complaints and conduct.”