|SENIOR POLICEMAN STILL BLAMING LIVERPOOL FANS FOR HILLSBOROUGH TRAGEDY
SportingPreview.com: 13 September 2012
One of Britain's most senior police officers, West Yorkshire Police chief constable Sir Norman Bettison, is maintaining today he did nothing wrong after the Hillsborough disaster and that Liverpool fans DID contribute to the tragedy that claimed 96 lives.
Families of the dead are putting Bettison under big pressure to resign, accusing him of spreading 'black propaganda' to force the blame on to innocent supporters while he worked at South Yorkshire Police at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy in April 1989.
In a statement today Bettison insisted he has "absolutely nothing to hide" and stated that fans made the job of the police "harder than it needed to be" on the day of the tragedy.
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The Hillsborough report was released yesterday and was a damning indictment on the police as it showed that there had been a smear campaign to blame Liverpool fans in an attempt to cover up police shortcomings. The report said that Bettison's job at the time had been to present South Yorkshire Police's case after the 96 deaths.
The report states that he said: "Perimeter fences were the result of hooliganism – walls demolished, missile attacks on police officers, supporters climbing perimeter fences, pitch invasion", adding the final example "was thought to be the case at Hillsborough".
Bettison also said that the Liverpool crowd trying to get into the ground were "massively uncooperative".
Speaking for the first time today Bettison, who was chief inspector at South Yorkshire in 1989, said: "I really welcome the disclosure of all the facts that can be known because I have absolutely nothing to hide. I read the 395 page report from cover to cover last night and that remains my position.
"Fans behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be.
"But it didn't cause the disaster any more than the sunny day that encouraged people to linger outside the stadium as kick off approached.
"I held those views then, I hold them now. I have never, since hearing the Taylor evidence unfold, offered any other interpretation in public or private.
"The panel, in my view, has produced a piece of work that will stand the test of time and scrutiny. Whilst not wishing to become a conducting rod for all the genuine and justified hurt and anguish, I would invite anyone to do the same as me and read the document and the papers online."
Bettison received no support Downing Street today when David Cameron's official spokesman was questioned by reporters on his position.
The spokesman was asked several times at a daily press briefing in Westminster whether the Prime Minister continued to have faith in Bettison as chief constable, but declined to respond directly to the question.
"The Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons yesterday setting out his views on this issue", the spokesman replied.
"It is a long report and I'm sure that we will take the time in the coming days and weeks to digest the report in detail. As you know there is going to be opportunity for further debate of this issue in the House in October.
"People are looking at the report in detail. As you know, the Attorney General is doing that, the Home Office is doing that. I'm sure we will come back to this issue, not least in that parliamentary debate."
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw is one of many voices who says Bettison, who was bizarely appointed chief constable of Merseyside Police a year after the disaster, should consider his position.
"I understand the concerns of the families. I think it is for his employers and for Sir Norman, between them," he said.
"He's bound to be considering [his position] – it's inevitable. He can read the newspapers, and I would have hoped he would have been considering it for some time. I can see the point that the families are making. On the other hand, my dealings personally with Sir Norman suggested that he was a fine police officer."
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, also piled more pressure on Bettison by saying: "It would not be right for serving officers to stay in post," while MPs suggested he should be stripped of his knighthood.
Norman Bettison, Keith Vaz and David Cameron's spokesman were all quoted in Sportsmail
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