Calls for Hillsborough police chief Sir Norman Bettison's pension to be frozen

Bettison's sudden resignation fails to satisfy campaigners

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The Independent Online

Families of Hillsborough victims urged a freeze on the pension of Sir Norman Bettison last night, following the embattled chief constable's sudden resignation.

Sir Norman has left West Yorkshire Police with immediate effect, after pressure built over accusations he led a smear campaign against Liverpool fans after the Hillsborough tragedy in April 1989.

He delivered his resignation hours before a meeting of the West Yorkshire Police Authority to discuss his role in the aftermath of the disaster, which killed 96. He had already announced his decision to step down, and was serving a notice period.

Although he now avoids internal disciplinary procedures, an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry will continue.

Sir Norman has denied that he ever blamed fans for the disaster, and said he would continue to assist the inquiry, which he hopes will "separate facts from speculation". He attributed the timing of his departure to pressure from the police authority and his concern that he had become a distraction to his force. Councillor Les Carter of the West Yorkshire police authority said Mr Bettison had "served West Yorkshire well".

Merseyside Police Authority, which will be paying Sir Norman's pension because he served as its chief constable between 1998 and 2005, said Sir Norman would have been entitled to £83,000 per year if he had retired in March, as he recently said he would. The authority said it was now considering the implications of last night's news.

On Monday, the Liverpool MP Maria Eagle used parliamentary privilege to accuse Sir Norman of helping to "concoct" a false version of events for the tragedy. Sir Norman dismissed the claim as "incredible and wrong".

An IPCC spokesman said: "We were not informed of Sir Norman's resignation in advance of the stories appearing in the press and the decision came as a surprise to us."

Ms Eagle told the BBC's The World at One yesterday: "I have said for many years in Parliament, as long ago as 1998, that he had an involvement in what everybody now realises was a major cover-up."

Sir Norman, who started the job in 2006, now faces calls for his police pension to be revoked. Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, and who chairs the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: "I would now like to know what payments and pension he's going to get.

"Any financial benefits should be frozen until the outcome of the investigation into the cover-up. This is not the end of it; the next thing is to make sure his role is properly investigated."

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, told BBC News: "I think the city of Liverpool, the families and the campaigners are pleased that he has decided to resign. I can't use the word 'honourable'."

Sir Norman said the police authority and some candidates in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections made it clear that they wanted him to go.

What they said: The victims' families

Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters died at Hillsborough

"We think if he'd had any decency he'd have gone long ago... His was a position of trust and he had lost that trust a long time ago. There are other matters - the knighthood, the fellowship that was bestowed on him. We think he should be stripped of those as well."

Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son died at the disaster

"He allowed the families to suffer for 23 years while knowing the truth all along. I'm absolutely delighted he's gone but as far as I am concerned he should have been sacked."