Disgraced Hillsborough officer Sir Norman Bettison linked to campaign to smear Stephen Lawrence family

 

A former chief constable who was accused of involvement in a police cover up in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster is to be investigated over claims that he sought to influence the evidence of a witness to the Macpherson Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

Sir Norman Bettison was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

Forces nationwide have been ordered to carry out a trawl or records and archives by the Home Secretary to establish whether attempts were made to discredit members of the Lawrence family though intelligence gathering or surveillance.

Mr Burns-Williamson said he had “significant concerns” about Sir Norman's conduct when he was an assistant chief constable with the force after becoming aware of three documents referring to a report into a key witness who gave evidence to the inquiry when it sat in Bradford in October 1998.

“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,” he said.

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

Last week Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd referred his force to the IPCC amid claims that officers gathered intelligence on those attending the inquiry into the teenager's death.

Sir Norman stood down as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire last year at the request of the then police authority which was led by Mr Burns-Williamson.

He has faced repeated calls from the families of Hillsborough victims to be stripped of his knighthood and his £83,000 pension after the independent report into Britain's worst sporting tragedy found evidence of an alleged smear and disinformation campaign.

Sir Norman a senior officer in South Yorkshire Police at the time who was present as a spectator on the day of the match, has always denied blaming Liverpool fans for the crush which led to the deaths of 96 people.

In March the IPCC said if allegations of inappropriate conduct had been proved following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Sir Norman would have had a case to answer for discreditable conduct and could have been sacked if he had not been asked to resign.

The latest claims refer to a hearing of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in Bradford in 1998 in which Sir William Macpherson was told by community leaders of discriminatory policing and racist behaviour by officers in the city which was then still recovering from the devastating effects of rioting three years earlier.

The inquiry was told that one Pakistani family living on a mainly white council estate complained to police of a bottle of urine being tossed through the door of their shop. A female officer allegedly told them: “At least it wasn't petrol. You're not going to burn in your beds.”

Lloyd Clarke, then Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, denied his force was “inherently racist” but conceded that stop-and-search figures indicated subliminal prejudice by officers. Present Chief Constable Mark Gilmore said the force would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

“The allegations made against two other Police Forces and the material we have found in connection with the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry raise significant issues of not just public confidence and trust, but also public interest,” he said.

The Macpherson report which followed the inquiry led to the assertion that Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”. Last month former undercover officer Peter Francis claimed that attempts were made to find information to smear the Lawrence family following the murder in south east London in April 1993.

Norman Bettison: Career

At the age of nine Norman Bettison sat on his grandfather’s knee to be told he should grow up to be a policeman. It was the only career he wanted.

He left school at 16 to become Police Cadet of the Year in South Yorkshire. His time as a bobby on the beat was a vital influence on his later ideas as one of the pioneers of Neighbourhood Policing.

He was fast-tracked and when the Hillsborough Disaster took place in 1989 he was a chief inspector and rising. By 1993 he was assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police but his role in the aftermath of the tragedy was beginning to dog him.

In 1998 he was appointed chief constable of the Merseyside force, prompting an outcry among Hillsborough families, and MP Maria Eagle used parliamentary privilege to name him as part of a “black propaganda unit” to smear fans.

In 2000 he was awarded the Queen's Police Medal and in 2006 he was knighted. He left policing and led a private company in 2005 but returned in 2007 as chief constable at West Yorkshire. A year later he was tipped as a candidate for Britain’s top policing job, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

But last year he resigned. By then he had already been referred to the IPCC over claims he provided misleading information after Hillsborough.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor