Sir Norman Bettison has stepped down as chief of West Yorkshire Police after bowing to pressure over his alleged role in the Hillsborough cover-up.
Politicians, police authority leaders and the families of those who died in the 1989 stadium disaster all welcomed the resignation of the region’s most senior officer, just hours before he was due to face possibly disciplinary action related to Hillsborough.
Sir Norman retired with immediate effect and without a pay-off, shortly before a special committee of West Yorkshire Police Authority was set to decide what action to take over his alleged misconduct.
Kris Hopkins, the Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley, suggested Sir Norman had “jumped before he was pushed” and said his position had “been untenable for some time”.
Sir Norman used his parting statement to insist he has “never blamed the fans for causing the tragedy”, and said he “refuted” allegations in Parliament this week that he once boasted of being involved in a plot to “fit up” the Liverpool supporters.
Sir Norman had defied calls for him to quit when the Hillsborough Independent Panel first revealed details of his role in South Yorkshire Police’s now-discredited response to the tragedy.
However, police authority bosses pressured him to announce his retirement in March after referring him on two separate counts of alleged misconduct to the police watchdog. Those inquiries will continue.
The final straw came in Monday night’s Commons debate when Merseyside MP Maria Eagle quoted a “contemporaneous account” from a civil servant that Sir Norman had “boasted” of being involved in “a plot to fit up Liverpool fans”.
Sir Norman said yesterday (Oct 24) the allegations were “astounding and untrue”, but that he felt it was in the best interests of the police for him to step down ahead of his March retirement.
He said: “The police authority, and some of the candidates in the forthcoming police commissioner elections, have made it clear they wish me to go sooner. I do so, not because of any allegations about the past, but because I share the view that this has become a distraction to policing in West Yorkshire now and in the future.”