SIR Norman Bettison is unlikely to face any misconduct charges before he retires as chief constable of West Yorkshire Police but could still potentially face criminal charges over his actions following the Hillsborough disaster.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is expected to announce a decision on the launch of a formal investigation into Sir Norman in the next fortnight.
The complexity of the inquiry and probable involvement of allegations against other police personnel means it is highly unlikely any case for potential misconduct could take place before Sir Norman – who denies all allegations against him – retires next March.
But an IPCC inquiry could still lead to criminal charges if Sir Norman’s alleged role in a police cover-up after the 1989 disaster is deemed serious enough to place before a court.
The chief constable has consistently said he welcomes the IPCC inquiry as an opportunity to clear his name and it is thought he would continue to assist any ongoing investigation after he left the force.
The Yorkshire Post has learned West Yorkshire Police Authority rejected the chief constable’s initial offer to retire next summer because its members wanted him out of the job sooner. Members had made it plain to Sir Norman his position was untenable in the wake of the devastating findings from the recent independent Hillsborough inquiry but it is possible a potential misconduct case could have gone ahead if the chief had remained to the summer.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families’ Support Group, said she was “absolutely delighted” Sir Norman was leaving but questioned why he was going before the conclusion of the IPCC investigation.
“I’m not arguing against it, because I’m thrilled that he is going, but if he’s got nothing to hide, why is he retiring? The man has got something to worry about.”
The key allegations Sir Norman faces largely relate to his role in an internal unit South Yorkshire Police set up in the immediate aftermath of the fatal crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground which led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans.
Sir Norman was a chief inspector with the South Yorkshire force at the time and the unit has been implicated in efforts by the police to cover up their responsibility for the disaster by blaming supporters instead.
The IPCC is considering a complaint that Sir Norman “was involved in the production and supply of misleading information for the various inquiries that have been undertaken into the Hillsborough disaster”.
Sir Norman denies the claim and has explicitly denied any involvement in the large-scale altering of police statements at the time.
He will be retiring as a police officer for a second time when he leaves West Yorkshire next year.
In 2004, Sir Norman retired as Merseyside chief constable and became chief executive of Centrex, a firm which offered training to police forces. He returned to policing as West Yorkshire chief in 2007.