Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Police chief 'sorry' for fans' slur

Sir Norman Bettison said Liverpool supporters were in no way responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy
Sir Norman Bettison said Liverpool supporters were in no way responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy
A copy of the report delivered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel is read at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral
A copy of the report delivered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel is read at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral
Rafa Benitez
Hillsborough horror remembered: An injured fan receiving attention on the pitch
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough
Rafa Benitez
Hillsborough horror remembered: An injured fan receiving attention on the pitch
Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, trying to escape severe overcrowding
The Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Debbie Routledge, a survivor in the Hillsborough stadium disaster 1989
Fans on the pitch at Hillsborough. FA Cup semi final April 1989 between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. 96 football fans lost their lives in Britain's worst stadium disaster
Fans receiving attention on the pitch. Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield will always bear the scar of England's worst football tragedy. On April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives having gone to watch their side contest an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest
Gill and Brian Caldwell being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough
An injured fan receiveing attention on the pitch
An injured fan sits against the goalpost with his leg in a splint
Fans recieving medical attention on the pitch
Hillsborough disaster policeman looks at a pile of police helmets lying on pitch amongst debris
Police shielding injured fans at Hillsborough
Kevin Williams stretchered off on the Hillsborough pitch during the Hillsborough disaster
Injured fans lie on advertising boards which were used as makeshift stretchers
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Victims at the Hillsborough football disaster, 1989
Bent and twisted fencing at Hillsborough in the aftermath of the tragedy
A distraught young Liverpool fan in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, his wife Marina and daughter Kelly during the memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Tragedy.
Scarves and floral tributes laid at Anfield
Scarves and floral tributes at Hillsborough
A young boy adding to the floral tributes at Anfield's Shankly gates
A message written on a wall remebering the Hillsborough disaster victims
Andrew Devine, coma victim of the Hillsborough football disaster
Hillsborough disaster victim Andrew Devine who is now communicating by pressing a micro switch
Margaret Thatcher at Hillsborough
Anfield fans leave flowers in the nets
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
The Hillsborough tragedy - 1989
A sea of flowers at Hillsborough stadium, in memory of the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough
Hillsborough Memorial
A Liverpool supporter holding a banner
Fans and players observe a minutes silence at Hillsborough
Liverpool's Xabi Alonso wearing a black armband in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England. On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Fans crushed against the perimeter fence at Hillsborough

The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police has apologised for any upset caused by his statement that Liverpool fans' behaviour made policing at the Hillsborough tragedy "harder than it needed to be".

Sir Norman Bettison said his role was never to "besmirch" the fans and said the Reds' supporters were in no way to blame for the disaster. The chief constable said he was "deeply sorry that impression and slight has lingered for 23 years".

In a statement, Sir Norman said: "Let me speak very clearly. The fans of Liverpool Football Club were in no way to blame for the disaster that unfolded at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989. I formed this clear view on hearing all the evidence that was presented at the Taylor inquiry, having sat through every day from its beginning, just four weeks after the tragedy, through to its conclusion.

"The evidence was overwhelming. The police failed to control the situation, which ultimately led to the tragic deaths of 96 entirely innocent people. I can be no plainer than that and I am sorry if my earlier statement, intended to convey the same message, has caused any further upset. My role was never to besmirch the fans. I did not do that. I am deeply sorry that impression and slight has lingered for 23 years."

Sir Norman was an off-duty South Yorkshire Police inspector when he attended the game and was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in its aftermath. On Thursday, he denied any wrongdoing but sparked fury with his comments, which led to calls for him to resign.

Asked by ITV News if he was part of a "black operations unit" to smear the fans, Sir Norman said: "No, not at all, there wasn't a black ops unit. I wasn't part of it. I was part of a team trying to put together the facts in a concentrated time period for my chief constable."

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC he could see why people were "livid" about Sir Norman's previous statement. "I think his comments were ill-judged and insensitive," the Liberal Democrat leader said. "If I was a family on Liverpool, Merseyside, of someone who died on that day, I would be livid."

The damning Hillsborough Independent Panel report revealed a cover-up took place to shift the blame on to the victims and that 41 of the 96 lives lost at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, could have been saved.

The panel found 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster. Reviews have been ordered by police authorities in West Yorkshire, into the actions of Sir Norman, and West Midlands, which also conducted an investigation into the disaster.

South Yorkshire Police, which still employs 195 officers who were on duty at the ground on the day of the tragedy, said the force would refer itself to police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Chief constable David Crompton said South Yorkshire Police would consider asking the IPCC whether those involved in the Hillsborough tragedy should face manslaughter investigations.

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