Ex-police chief Bettison quizzed under caution over probe into Lawrence inquiry witness

Sir Norman Bettison
Sir Norman Bettison
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Ex-West Yorkshire Police chief constable Norman Bettison was interviewed under caution over his role in the ‘discreet enquiries’ carried out into a witness at a public inquiry, it emerged today.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) revealed Sir Norman was quizzed over the intelligence report compiled in 1998 on Mohammed Amran, a former Commissioner for Race Relations in Bradford.

Mohammed Amran

Mohammed Amran

Mr Amran later appeared as witness at a Bradford hearing of the Government’s Macpherson inquiry into the 1993 racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

A report sent to Sir Norman, at that time Assistant Chief Constable, included a note saying that Mr Amran was “capable of fomenting public disorder amongst Asian and Black Youth”.

Another note said: ‘Sir, the report into this man as per the request from ACC Bettison. This seems as far as we go with discreet [enquiries] at this time.’

Sir Norman’s reply said he now had “a good feel for the subject who has been researched” and asked for the report to be sent to two officers who would also be appearing at the inquiry.

On March 5 last year he was interviewed by the IPCC under criminal and misconduct caution in relation to alleged misconduct in public office.

He said that during a briefing about the upcoming hearing in 1998, he asked what Mr Amran was “up to these days” after coming into contact with him in 1995.

Sir Norman denied ordering the report, and has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but suggested a subordinate officer may have compiled it to impress him.

The IPCC) said that a “lack of a comprehensive audit trail” also meant it could not discover who ordered the probe into Mr Amran’s background.

He appeared as a witness at a hearing of the Macpherson Inquiry in Bradford in 1998, but the IPCC said there was no evidence to suggest the report was used to undermine his credibility.

An independent IPCC investigation examined why West Yorkshire Police’s special branch compiled an intelligence report.

It also looked at who was responsible, how the report was used, if it affected the inquiry proceedings, whether ethnicity had been a factor, and whether the information was used by the force in an unrelated civil action in 2001.

IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: “This intelligence report was compiled in the run-up to an inquiry of significant national interest. The lack of available documentary evidence and clear recollections from former officers has been problematic for the investigation.

“It means there is no clear explanation as to why it was ordered or who requested it. There is no evidence of the report being used to undermine the witness’s credibility at the Macpherson Inquiry.”

The inquiry was held to examine the appalling failures in how 18-year-old Stephen’s murder was investigated.

The aspiring architect was stabbed to death by a group of up to six white youths in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993 in an unprovoked racist attack while he waited at a bus stop with a friend. It took more than 18 years to bring two of his killers to justice.

A race relations worker in Bradford and a member of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), Mohammed Amran is credited as persuading the Lawrence inquiry team to visit Bradford.

He got an honorary degree from Bradford University in 2002 and was once a lay adviser to the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Norman Bettison told the IPCC that he first became aware of him during the 1995 Manningham riots, but that he had been “difficult” and demanded the release of two individuals being held by police.

By 2001 West Yorkshire Police said it could no longer work with him, though the CRE rejected its complaint.

The catalyst for the report on Mr Amran was most likely to have been a comment from Sir Norman, assistant chief constable at West Yorkshire Police in 1998, the investigation found.

When the man’s name was mentioned during a briefing which included reference to the Macpherson Inquiry in Bradford, Sir Norman asked: “What’s he up to these days?”

Sir Norman denied ordering the report when he was interviewed under criminal caution by the IPCC, but suggested a subordinate officer may have compiled it to impress him after overhearing the comment.

None of the special branch officers could remember who had requested the report, with compiling reports on individuals and groups being “standard work” for the unit.

Inquiries made by the unit did not breach any national police policies or procedures applicable at the time, the IPCC found.

According to documentation, Sir Norman requested that two individuals be briefed on the contents of the report and that it be forwarded to another officer.

All three police officers later appeared at the Macpherson Inquiry.

None could remember seeing the report, and transcripts show they did not refer to the man during the inquiry’s proceedings.

Sir Norman, who resigned as West Yorkshire Police’s chief constable in 2012, told the IPCC he asked for the report to be shared with the officers as it concerned someone working in the areas they policed.

That all three were due to appear at the Macpherson Inquiry was a coincidence, he said.

Ms Butts added: “West Yorkshire Police did not breach the national policies and procedures applicable at the time.

“However, the fact that it has proved impossible to determine the purpose behind the intelligence report will no doubt leave the individual who was the subject of this intelligence report with a number of unanswered questions. This is regrettable.”

West Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said: “West Yorkshire Police has co-operated fully throughout the independent investigation carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. We welcome the thoroughness of the report compiled and note the findings in this case.”