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Case dismissed: Sir Norman Bettison speaking outside court. He was not exonerated; it seems that there has been so much delay in prosecuting a case against him that one witness died and evidence from another became questionable.

Who can blame the Hillsborough Family Support Group for being incandescent with fury about the way charges against Sir Norman Bettison have been dropped?

Bettison, formerly a Superintendant in South Yorkshire Police, had been charged with four offences of misconduct in public office relating to telling alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough and the culpability of fans. Given his role as a senior police officer, the CPS had declared an intent to show that this was misconduct of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.

This declaration was made in 2012 – 23 years after the disaster in which 96 people were killed in a crush at Hillsborough while supporting Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

The families of the deceased have spent years demanding answers about Bettison’s involvement for South Yorkshire police, particularly as he went on to become the chief constable at Merseyside in 1998.

Wasn’t that a potential conflict of interest? Have a think about that one.

It has long been believed that a full investigation into the disaster was delayed because of political interference and it could be argued that this delay has served its purpose. Here’s the reason:

The case against Bettison was not dismissed because he was found to be innocent in the light of the evidence. It was dismissed because one of the chief witnesses against him, Mark Ellaby, had died. When the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) visited another key witness – aged no less than 85 – “significant contradictions” emerged in her evidence.

Delaying an investigation into high-profile allegations of wrong-doing is a tactic we all recognise now, I hope. In this case, it has led to the death of one witness, while another has now reached great age and her evidence is no longer reliable.

That is how Norman Bettison has escaped prosecution.

(As a sidebar, This Writer has experience of investigations into police conduct, and I would not trust the IOPC’s verdict on the second witness for a single second. That’s a personal opinion.)

So it comes as no surprise to me that Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said members had “grave concerns about the handling of this case by the CPS”.

She said: “We … 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. We know how our supporters will feel about this decision and, of course, we all share all of those feelings.”

And she pledged to “fight on” while saying that the families struggle at times to “find the strength to keep going”.

All things considered, this is entirely understandable.

The collapse of the case against Bettison leaves five others facing charges over Hillsborough:

David Duckenfield, the South Yorkshire police chief superintendent in command of the semi-final at Hillsborough, is charged with 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Graham Mackrell, the former secretary and safety officer for Sheffield Wednesday, is charged with three breaches of safety legislation; former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent Donald Denton and chief inspector Alan Foster are charged with doing acts tending and intending to pervert the course of justice, as is the force’s former solicitor, Peter Metcalf.

Duckenfield’s trial is due to start in January.

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all cri

David Duckenfield, the South Yorkshire police chief superintendent in command of the semi-final at Hillsborough, is charged with 95 counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Graham Mackrell, the former secretary and safety officer for Sheffield Wednesday, is charged with three breaches of safety legislation; former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent Donald Denton and chief inspector Alan Foster are charged with doing acts tending and intending to pervert the course of justice, as is the force’s former solicitor, Peter Metcalf.

Duckenfield’s trial, which is listed first, is due to start in January.

minal charges against Sir Norman Bettison relating to his conduct as a South Yorkshire police chief inspector in the force’s response to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Bettison, who was subsequently appointed chief constable of Merseyside and then West Yorkshire police, was charged last June with four counts of misconduct in a public office for statements he allegedly made about Hillsborough and his role, which the CPS claimed were untrue.

Bettison had made an application for the charges to be dismissed, which was due to be heard at Preston crown court on Tuesday, but the CPS barrister, Sarah Whitehouse QC, told the judge, Sir Peter Openshaw, that all four charges against Bettison were being withdrawn and the prosecution discontinued.

Bettison was not charged for his actual conduct or role in the South Yorkshire police’s response to the disaster. Instead, the CPS alleged that Bettison lied about his role in statements he made years later, in 1998 and 2012. Two charges alleged that in late 1998, during his application process for the Merseyside position, Bettison described his Hillsborough role as “peripheral” and told the Merseyside Police Authority he had “never attempted to shift blame on to the shoulders of Liverpool supporters”.

The two further charges related to press releases he issued in September 2012 after the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report, in which he stated that he had never “besmirched” Liverpool supporters or suggested privately or publicly that they had caused the disaster.

Source: CPS drops all charges against former Hillsborough officer | Football | The Guardian

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