Police chief announces retirement amid probe into role he played after Hillsborough disaster

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WEST Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Norman Bettison has announced his plan to retire amid continuing investigations into the role he played following the Hillsborough disaster.

Sir Norman Bettison announced his decision yesterday and will step down in March, at the age of 57.

He was employed by South Yorkshire Police when 96 men, women and children died at a football match at Hillsborough in 1989 when too many fans were allowed onto the terraces at Leppings Lane and ended up crushed in the pens around the pitch.

Sir Norman was a Chief Inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster and was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in the aftermath.

A report by an independent panel set up to review all the Hillsborough files held by organisations for the last 23 years revealed a police cover-up aimed at deflecting blame away from the force and towards the fans.

Police statements which were unfavourable to the force were altered to hide the truth.

Sir Norman sparked fury last month when he said supporters made policing on the day ‘harder than it needed to be.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating a complaint that Sir Norman supplied misleading information after the disaster.

It is also examining the statement he made following the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel last month.

West Yorkshire Police Authority chairman Mark Burns-Williamson said: “In all the circumstances and after due consideration, we think this is the right decision for retirement in March 2013.

“The bottom line has to be what is best for policing in West Yorkshire. Sir Norman has clearly taken that into consideration and already declared his intent to work with the IPCC investigation following the recent referral by the Police Authority.”

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: “Obviously I’m very, very pleased. I’m absolutely delighted that he’s going. But then he’ll be going on his full pension, and I’d like to know the full reasons why he’s choosing to retire as soon as this.”

There were calls for Sir Norman to resign after his comments about the behaviour of Liverpool fans last month, but he responded with an apology and said his role was never to ‘besmirch’ the fans and added that the Liverpool supporters were in no way to blame for what happened. He has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to the disaster.