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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent