NEWS

Sir Norman Bettison Criticised For Comments In Hillsborough Book

'No dignity, no morals.'

17/11/2016 10:45

Former police chief Sir Norman Bettison has defended his reference to Liverpool fans’ behaviour during the Hillsborough disaster in a new book about the tragedy.

Speaking last night to BBC Newsnight about his book, Hillsborough Untold, and its controversial inclusion of ‘facts’ about fan behaviour, the former South Yorkshire police chief said he did so to provide readers the full context.

Asked about his reference to fans who “turned up late or were drunk” Bettison said: “I do it in two paragraphs in a 350 page book.

BBC
Bettison (left) was interviewed by Evan Davis on Newsnight on Wednesday

He continued: “These are facts that I believe shouldn’t be concealed. They weren’t relevant but I only mention it here to show the source of the hurt that has been felt for such a wrong time that the police always blamed the fans for the disaster… and that’s why I mention it in the book.”

Earlier this year an inquest, which heard evidence from Bettison, found the 96 Liverpool fans who died following the disaster on April 15 1989, were unlawfully killed and supporters were not to blame.

Asked whether he had been willing to blame the fans in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Bettison said: “Police evidence that was gathered at the time did attach some blame to fan behaviour in the build up to the crush that happened outside the Leppings Lane end. 

Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Hundreds of thousands of tributes are laid in memory of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough in 1989

“What became clear, crystal clear, during [the] Taylor [enquiry] is that that had nothing to do with the disaster and the 96 deaths that occurred.”

And challenged on the notion that idle talk between officers led to fan behaviour becoming a central theme in subsequent versions of events at Hillsborough, Bettison blamed the media.

He told presenter Evan Davis: “The press picked all of their material up from a news agency based in Sheffield. 

“I have always said very clearly there was no hooliganism in play at Hillsborough on that fateful afternoon.”

Bettison controversially became Merseyside’s police chief in 1998.

His appearance on Newsnight provoked fierce reaction from viewers.

Bettison - who claimed in the book he had been a Liverpool FC fan since the age of nine and rarely missed a match when he was Merseyside Police chief - denied there was any cover-up within the force after the disaster.

He said he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” when the independent panel report was released in 2012 and became a “poster boy for conspiracy theorists”.

Bettison, who is currently under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for his role in the aftermath, suggested the ongoing inquiry had not been “open-minded”.

BBC
Norman Bettison was a chief inspector at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and later became the head Merseyside Police

He said the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was “authoritative” but not “definitive”, the Press Association reported.

He said: “I was the only person named in the report that remained alive and who was still serving as a police officer. The last man standing, so to speak.

“I had also been a public figure in Merseyside and had risen to the rank of chief constable.

“I immediately became the poster boy for conspiracy theorists... and the whipping boy for revenge.”

Biteback Publishing
The cover of Hillsborough Untold: Aftermath of a disaster by Norman Bettison

He said the panel report was written in “a leading style” and added: “For anyone who already had a prejudice about the police role, post disaster, there were references that allowed them to infer all kinds of mischief.”

In the book, dedicated to his granddaughters, Bettison described his memories of the day of the FA Cup semi-final - which he attended as a spectator - and his role in a team tasked with gathering evidence in the aftermath of the disaster, as well as his later appointment as chief constable of the Merseyside force.

He also spoke of the process by which the statements of more than 200 police officers were amended.

AFP via Getty Images
Policemen rescue soccer fans at Hillsborough stadium 15 April 1989

He said: “I can address this issue confidently. I knew of the process.

“My own account was amended. I never, at the time, saw anything as part of this process that caused me any concern.”

 

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Norman Bettison has criticised the Hillsborough Independent Panel report

He said: “The Hillsborough Panel were struck by the one-sided view offered by the report but seemed pretty clear that it was only ever an internal report.”

He said he was called to give evidence at the two-year long inquests held in Warrington “as a pseudo defendant at the only forum that might, figuratively speaking, put me in ‘the dock’”.

Bettison is said to be donating his proceeds from sales of the book to charity.

BBC
Bettison said to be donating his proceeds from sales of the book to charity

Chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, branded the book “irrelevant”

She said: “We have nothing to worry about. We have already proven our case for the families, the fans and the survivors.

“I think he’s a sad man.

“His book is irrelevant. The truth is out there and that’s all that matters.”

The IPCC had requested a copy of the book before publication.

A spokeswoman for the watchdog said: “We have read and assessed the book. We do not think it has a significant adverse impact on the ongoing criminal investigation and we would need to be able to demonstrate this in order to bring any legal action to prevent publication.”

In response to Bettison’s criticisms of the investigation, she said: “The IPCC carries out its work thoroughly, efficiently, and independently.

“The Hillsborough investigation is the biggest criminal investigation into alleged police wrongdoing undertaken in this country.”

She added: “We remain on track to deliver full evidence files to the Crown Prosecution Service at the turn of the year, to enable decisions on criminal charges to be made.”

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS