Hillsborough: Families urge review of CPS decision to drop misconduct case against Sir Norman Bettison

CPS says conviction unlikely following ‘significant developments’ in available evidence

Tom Embury-Dennis,Jon Sharman
Tuesday 21 August 2018 11:56
Sir Norman Bettison feels 'vindicated' after Hillsborough charges dropped

Families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster are to call for a review of the decision not to prosecute former police chief Sir Norman Bettison over alleged lies he told following the tragedy.

Sir Norman, who was a chief inspector of South Yorkshire Police at the time of the crush in 1989, had been due to face trial next year but the case against him was discontinued on Tuesday.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “We have grave concerns about the handling of this case by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and can confirm that we will be exercising our right to an independent review under the right to review scheme.

“It is our view that the wrong charge was brought in the first place and we will be using the review process to argue this point strongly.”

Sir Norman, the former Merseyside and West Yorkshire chief constable, had been charged with four counts of misconduct in a public office.

He was accused of untruthfully describing his role in the response as “peripheral” in a comment to then-chief inspector of constabulary Sir David O’Dowd, in 1998, when he applied for the job of chief constable in Merseyside.

But at a Preston Crown Court hearing on Tuesday, the Crown Prosecution Service said the proceedings would be discontinued.

In a statement, the CPS said there was “no longer a realistic prospect of conviction” following a “number of significant developments” in the available evidence.

“These include changes in the evidence of two witnesses and the death of a third witness,” Sue Hemming, CPS director of legal services, said.

She added: “I appreciate this news will be disappointing for the families and the CPS will meet with them in person to explain the decision.”

Margaret Aspinall on Hillsborough charges: This is the beginning of the end

Speaking outside court, Lou Brookes, whose brother Andrew, 26, was one of the 96 victims of the tragedy, said: “I will certainly be pursuing my right to a review, a full and independent review, under the victims’ right to review scheme.”

Steve Kelly, the brother of victim Michael, 38, said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I feel as if I’ve been beaten up this morning.”

Sir Norman was also accused of lying to Merseyside Police Authority when he said he had never attempted to shift blame for the disaster “on to the shoulders of Liverpool supporters”.

He was alleged to have lied in a statement issued in September 2012, following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, when he said he had never offered any interpretation other than that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause the disaster.

And he was accused of misconduct over a statement released the following day in which he said he had never “besmirched” Liverpool fans.

Sir Norman was charged after the Independent Police Complaints Commission carried out the biggest criminal investigation into alleged police misconduct ever seen in England and Wales.

Five other men, including Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, are due to face trial over offences related to the disaster next year.

Additional reporting by Press Association