West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison will be investigated by the national police watchdog over allegations he was involved in a ‘cover-up’ of police failings at the Hillsborough disaster.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had received a referral from the West Yorkshire Police Authority following complaints from members of the public about Sir Norman being “involved in the production and supply of misleading information for the various inquiries that have been undertaken”.
The IPCC said controversial comments Sir Norman made following the release of a report by the Hillsborough Indpendent Panel last week had also been referred by the police authority, which employs him.
Sir Norman was widely criticised after saying Liverpool fans’ behaviour made policing at the tragedy in 1989 “harder than it needed to be”.
His comments came after the panel had released a devastating report highlighting serious failings by South Yorkshire Police before, during and after the events at the Sheffield stadium which led to the deaths of 96 fans, and which said supporters neither caused nor contributed to the disaster.
Sir Norman was a South Yorkshire chief inspector at the time and his role in an internal inquiry unit set up by the force in the immediate aftermath of the disaster has come under close scrutiny.
The police authority’s special committee agreed to record a complaint against Sir Norman and refer it to the IPCC for investigation. The formal referral arrived with the IPCC on Tuesday.
In a statement, the IPCC said: “This referral ... follows complaints from members of the public about two matters: 1) allegations that the Chief Constable, while a serving officer with South Yorkshire Police, was involved in the production and supply of misleading information for the various inquiries that have been undertaken into the Hillsborough disaster; 2) the public statement made by the Chief Constable on 13 September 2012.”
The statement went: “This assessment is being conducted in parallel with our ongoing review of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and supporting documentation.
“The review is being undertaken to identify from the report what conduct, by named or unnamed police officers, may require referral and to clarify our jurisdiction.”
Last week, Sir Norman denied any wrongdoing but sparked fury with his comments, which led to calls for him to resign.