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Police chief retirement 'is right'

West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison's plan to retire amid continuing investigations into his role following the Hillsborough disaster is the "right decision", his police authority chairman has said.

Sir Norman's announcement that he will step down in March, at the age of 57, has been welcomed by the families of the victims of the 1989 tragedy.

He sparked fury last month when he said supporters made policing on the day "harder than it needed to be".

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating a complaint that Sir Norman supplied misleading information after the disaster. He was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police in 1989. He went to the match in Sheffield as a spectator but was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in the aftermath of the tragedy.

West Yorkshire Police Authority chairman Mark Burns-Williamson said: "In all the circumstances and after due consideration, we think this is the right decision for retirement in March 2013. The bottom line has to be what is best for policing in West Yorkshire.

Mr Burns-Williamson made his statement amid reports that his authority met a number of times to discuss the chief's position and there were "varying views" on when he should go. He said: "We have had some discussion about the chief constable's possible retirement date and succession planning, but hadn't reached any firm agreement. Sir Norman Bettison has been a very valued and effective chief constable. West Yorkshire is much the better for his leadership over the past six years or so."

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: "Obviously I'm very, very pleased. I'm absolutely delighted that he's going. But then he'll be going on his full pension, and I'd like to know the full reasons why he's choosing to retire as soon as this."

Mrs Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the tragedy, said: "Why didn't he stay, then, until the IPCC came out with their investigation? But he's decided to leave. I'm not arguing against it, because I'm thrilled that he is going, but if he's got nothing to hide, why is he retiring? The man has got something to worry about."

There were calls for Sir Norman to resign after his comments about the behaviour of Liverpool fans last month, but he responded with an apology and said his role was never to "besmirch" the fans and added that the Liverpool supporters were in no way to blame for what happened. He has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to the disaster.

In a message posted on the West Yorkshire Police website, Sir Norman said he hoped his departure would assist the IPCC in its inquiry: "I hope it will enable the Independent Police Complaints Commission to fully investigate allegations that have been raised about my integrity. They need to be fairly and fully investigated and I welcome this independent and formal scrutiny."

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