West Yorkshire’s police chief was today fighting for his job after a second investigation was launched into his conduct following the explosive Hillsborough report.
Sir Norman Bettison was already under pressure after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced last month it would examine whether he supplied misleading information after the 1989 football stadium disaster.
He is now under further scrutiny after the watchdog revealed it had been asked to investigate if Sir Norman tried to influence West Yorkshire Police Authority’s decision to refer him to the IPCC.
The chief constable has already said he plans to retire next March.
A gross misconduct outcome from disciplinary proceedings could lead to Sir Norman’s dismissal, but would have no impact on his pension entitlement.
Sir Norman already received nearly half a million pounds from Merseyside Police Authority following his retirement as Merseyside chief constable in 2004, including a lump sum payment of £328,000.
His retirement payments stopped when he rejoined the police with West Yorkshire in 2007 but are due to resume at a rate of £83,000 a year from next March.
Sir Norman’s lucrative pension will only be interrupted if he is convicted of a criminal offence and the IPCC’s announcement of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations surrounding the 1989 disaster indicated that was a possibility.
The West Yorkshire chief faces an inquiry into allegations he was involved in the cover-up of the police role in the Hillsborough disaster when he was a chief inspector in South Yorkshire.
Yesterday the IPCC said the production of what was known as the Wain Report “at its highest... could amount to perverting the course of justice, and at the least, raises questions of discreditable conduct, and honesty and integrity.”
The involvement of what the IPCC termed the “Wain group” in altering of police statements is also under investigation. Sir Norman has specifically denied he was involved in altering statements.
His role in attempts by the South Yorkshire Police Federation to influence the views of MPs after the tragedy is also under investigation along with his role in preparing evidence about the decision not to close a tunnel leading to terracing where the crush that led to the deaths of 96 fans occurred.
He is also now facing a second investigation, for allegedly trying to improperly “influence” the decision to refer him to the watchdog last month, following a complaint from West Yorkshire Police Authority on Monday. The IPCC described it as a “serious allegation”.
West Yorkshire Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said Sir Norman should be suspended immediately.
“It’s about public perception,” the Elmet and Rothwell MP added. “I don’t think the public could have full faith in an investigation if the people being investigated are still involved at the highest level on the police service. We are talking about the chief constable.”
The police authority has the power to suspend Sir Norman if it believes the integrity of the inquiry could be compromised or if public confidence is overwhelmingly undermined by his remaining in post. But a spokeswoman said that was not currently under consideration.
Pressure is growing on West Yorkshire Police Authority chairman Mark Burns-Williamson, who is standing in next month’s crime commissioner elections, to declare his position.
The Labour candidate, who if elected will have the power to fire chief constables, has so far refused to say if he would suspend Sir Norman.
Last night, his Tory rival, Geraldine Carter, said the police authority took the easy way out in accepting Sir Norman’s early retirement.
Liberal Democrat candidate Andrew Marchington said Sir Norman should “think carefully about his position”.