PRESTON: Sir Norman Bettison, the former chief constable charged with four counts of misconduct in public office over the initial Hillsborough investigation, will not face trial.

The decision was announced by the Crown Prosecution Service at Preston Crown Court.

Sarah Whitehouse, QC, prosecuting, explained changes in the case against the 62-year-old had prompted the decision.

Bettison had been an inspector in South Yorkshire Police at the time of 1989 disaster, which led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. The former chief constable of Merseyside Police and West Yorkshire Police was charged with misconduct in public office 14 months ago.

The case centred on comments he was alleged to have made surrounding both his role in the aftermath of the FA Cup semi-final tragedy and the involvement of fans.

The charges accused him of “untruthfully”…

  • …describing his role in the SYP response to the Hillsborough disaster to Sir David O’Dowd, then chief inspector of constabulary, as ‘peripheral’ when applying to lead Merseyside Police in October 1998
  • …telling Merseyside Police Authority in November 1998, as part of that application process, that he had “never attempted to shift blame onto the shoulders of Liverpool supporters” for the tragedy
  • …saying, in September 2012, following the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, he had “never, since hearing the Taylor evidence unfold, offered any other interpretation in public or private” than that the behaviour of Reds supporters had not caused the disaster
  • …asserting, also in September 2012, he had never ‘besmirched’ LFC fans in relation to the tragedy

Margaret Aspinall, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose 18-year-old son James was killed in the disaster, said the families had “grave concerns” about the CPS’s handling of the case and would be exercising their right to a review.