03/07/2013 14:40 BST | Updated 03/07/2013 14:47 BST

Sir Norman Bettison Investigated Over Stephen Lawrence Smear Claims

Former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission today fears officers tried to discredit members of the Stephen Lawrence family, the force said.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson referred Sir Norman, saying he had "significant concerns" about his conduct at the time he was Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1998.

The referral follows a search for evidence across the police service of similar behaviour to that which attempted to discredit the Lawrence family when they were the target of covert surveillance as they sought justice for their murdered son, West Yorkshire Police said.

It is being made alongside a similar matter which has been raised by Greater Manchester Police and their Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.

norman bettison

Bettison has a case to answer

Both crime commissioners believe the evidence points to potential misconduct by serving police officers at the time of the Macpherson Inquiry and which requires urgent investigation.

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: "I have become aware of three documents following a thorough search requested by West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Mark Gilmore.

"These documents raise significant concerns over the role of Sir Norman Bettison at the time he was Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1998 in commissioning a report to be prepared in the respect of a key witness appearing before the Macpherson Inquiry.

"This may suggest an attempt to intervene in the course of a public inquiry and influence the manner in which the testimony of a witness, who was due to present evidence before it, was received.

"I have today referred this to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

"This is a matter which needs to be thoroughly investigated and, if wrongdoing is demonstrated, those responsible must face the consequences of their actions.

"Doreen Lawrence and her family need their treatment by the police service reviewed independently and this must be done as a matter of urgency.

"I am sure the Independent Police Complaints Commission will do the same for these separate issues of concern indicating possible corrupt practices in the later period around the Macpherson Inquiry."

He added that he is now seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary along with fellow Police and Crime Commissioner Lloyd in Greater Manchester.

"Wider issues of any institutional racism in the police service may need to be tackled with a standalone inquiry but my referral to the IPCC today is to make sure we understand the truth regarding the conduct of Sir Norman Bettison," Burns-Williamson added.

"I welcome Mark Gilmore, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, rightly and swiftly recognising the seriousness of this issue and dealing with it in an open and transparent way. "

The IPCC confirmed it received a referral relating to Sir Norman on Wednesday.

A spokesman added: "These referrals will be assessed."

Lawrence, from Eltham, south-east London, was killed in a racist attack while waiting for a bus on the evening of April 22, 1993.

An inquiry was held by Sir William Macpherson in 1998 after then Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a public hearing into matters surrounding his death.

The Macpherson report that followed recommended a series of measures that would subject the police to greater public control, enshrine rights for victims of crime and extend the number of offences classified as racist.

Former undercover officer Peter Francis recently claimed that attempts were made to find information to smear the Lawrence family following the murder in April 1993.

Additional claims have been made that meetings between Lawrence's friend Duwayne Brooks - who was with him on the night that he was murdered by racists - his lawyers and police were bugged.

An internal investigation has been launched into what happened after Brooks's solicitor wrote to police.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who has recently held meetings with Lawrence's mother Doreen, has said the claims could be examined by two existing inquiries - a police investigation into the activities of undercover officers and another led by Mark Ellison QC into allegations of corruption in the original investigation into the murder.