The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the actions of Sir Norman Bettison and other senior officers who led South Yorkshire Police’s internal inquiry into the stadium disaster in 1989 “could amount to perverting the course of justice”, an offence which carries a maximum life sentence.
The IPCC said yesterday it has identified “a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences”, and will work alongside the Crown Prosecution Service to bring those responsible to justice on possible charges ranging from misconduct to manslaughter.
On a dramatic day it was revealed that Sir Norman – now chief constable of West Yorkshire Police – is also now facing a second investigation into his conduct, for allegedly trying to improperly “influence” the decision to refer him to the watchdog last month.
The IPCC said West Yorkshire Police Authority made the latest complaint over his conduct on Monday, describing it as a “serious allegation” that will require a separate inquiry.
Sir Norman was also criticised by the IPCC yesterday for “unwise, insensitive and inappropriate” comments he made last month about Liverpool fans who were present at the disaster.
Sir Norman still vehemently denies any wrongdoing, but there were signs last night that he is losing the confidence of senior politicians across the county.
West Yorkshire Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said the chief constable – who has already been forced to take early retirement next March – should be suspended in the wake of the latest complaint.
Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell, a practising barrister, added: “If the authority are really saying the chief constable has tried to bully them out of putting a complaint into the IPCC, then it’s very hard to see how he can continue.”
Trevor Hicks, the Keighley businessman who lost two daughters in the tragedy, described Sir Norman as “damaged goods” and said his position was untenable.
The inquiry into Sir Norman will form just one strand of what IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said was “without a shadow of a doubt” the biggest-ever investigation into the British police, following the publication of the damning Hillsborough Independent Panel report last month.
Hundreds of past and present officers from South Yorkshire Police will be interviewed and investigated over the massive cover-up that followed the disaster.
Home Secretary Theresa May has agreed to provide funding for the watchdog to draft in additional investigators, as it looks to uncover who was behind the systematic alteration of police statements and an attempt to pin the blame on the Liverpool fans.
Ms Glass said: “We’ve begun looking at the 450,000 pages of evidence, and it is going to take some time.
“But we have identified a large number of potential criminal and misconduct offences.”