Call for police to face legal action over the tragedy and the cover-up


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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson was forced to apologise yesterday over a Spectator article which blamed Liverpool fans' behaviour for the tragedy.

The unsigned 2004 editorial said: "The police became a convenient scapegoat, and The Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident." Yesterday Mr Johnson said: "I was very, very sorry in 2004 that The Spectator [carried] an editorial that partially repeated those allegations, I apologised then and I apologise now."

By Jonathan Brown and Paul Peachey

There were demands for senior police officers to be prosecuted over the Hillsborough disaster and cover-up last night, as one of the country's most prominent chief constables faced calls to resign for his role in the scandal.

Lawyers for the relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the 1989 crush said there could be grounds to put serving and retired officers on trial – as well as council officials and representatives of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club where the match was staged.

Potential charges, include manslaughter and perverting the course of justice, said Michael Mansfield, QC, who is representing the families. Sir Norman Bettison, serving Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, enraged relatives further yesterday by insisting that the fans' behaviour on match day had made it harder for police to keep control.

Sir Norman, who was a spectator at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, was head of a team of senior officers charged with putting the case for South Yorkshire Police in the immediate wake of the disaster. The police review group's final report sought to blame unruly and drunk fans carrying alcohol for converging on the turnstiles just before kick-off.

Sir Norman, pictured, fiercely denied taking part in the systematic altering of officers' statements submitted to the 1989 Taylor inquiry, which he said was carried out by a different team within the force.

Last night the West Yorkshire Police Authority referred the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel to a special committee which oversees the conduct of senior ranks.

In his statement Sir Norman said: "Fans' behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be. But it didn't cause the disaster any more than the sunny day that encouraged people to linger outside the stadium as kick-off approached." Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: "He is still saying the fans made the job more difficult for the police. He ought to be ashamed of himself."

The newly appointed Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, said anyone who was found to have falsified documents would face criminal investigation.