Did Sir Norman Bettison try to smear Hillsborough inquest judge?

 

Sir Norman Bettison triggered an attempt by South Yorkshire Police to prosecute the High Court judge who led the original Hillsborough inquiry in 1989 over claims that he had blamed the force for the disaster even before he began his investigation.

In what was last night condemned as another "black propaganda" operation, senior officers considered charging Lord Justice Taylor with perverting the course of justice after a police driver claimed he had overheard the judge state that the South Yorkshire force would have to carry the can for the catastrophe, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans in April 1989.

But although the alleged conversation took place only three days after the disaster, the driver waited a year to "put the record straight" over the "injustice" suffered by the force. Documents published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel last week show that he only reported the allegations after he was "encouraged" to do so by his colleague Norman Bettison – then a key figure in a South Yorkshire Police unit that attempted to exonerate the force and blame Liverpool fans for the tragedy.

Sir Norman, who was knighted in 2006 and now serves as West Yorkshire's chief constable, faced calls to resign last week after the panel's report was published – and he gave an initial response that appeared once more to push some of the blame on to fans. It was announced yesterday that he had been referred to the police watchdog by his own police authority, after it had received a complaint related to Hillsborough.

The police driver's accusation of prejudice against one of the most well-regarded judges in the country was taken so seriously that the South Yorkshire chief constable travelled to London to discuss potential charges with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), claiming that: "My greatest wish is that the truth is served."

"The idea that the police would question the integrity of a High Court judge, let alone press charges against him, beggars belief," said Louise Ellman, now MP for Liverpool Riverside. "We have already seen evidence of this type of black propaganda. It shows the depths some people were willing to go to in order to shift the blame from themselves."

The independent panel's report last week vindicated victims' families, who had insisted the police, not the fans, were responsible for the disaster. It found that police and emergency services had made "strenuous attempts" to deflect blame on to fans. More than 160 police statements were changed, 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

But among the thousands of documents was a confidential file detailing allegations from the unnamed officer who drove the judge and the then West Midlands chief constable, Geoffrey Dear – who was also investigating the tragedy – to the Hillsborough stadium three days after the disaster.

The DPP at the time advised there was no case to answer. Despite this and dismissals by both Lord Justice Taylor and Mr Dear when the allegations were put to them by a senior official of the Home Office, the file was deemed so sensitive that it was kept in a safe for several years with a note warning that a leak of the details "could prove highly embarrassing for all parties".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower