Leeds & West Yorkshire

Sir Norman Bettison apologises for Hillsborough statement

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire
Image caption Sir Norman Bettison faces calls to resign over his original statement issued on Thursday

West Yorkshire's Chief Constable has apologised for any upset caused by a statement he issued about his role in the Hillsborough tragedy.

Sir Norman Bettison was responding to calls for his resignation over the statement he published on Thursday.

Sir Norman said he had not intended to suggest Liverpool fans had hindered police during the disaster in April 1989 in which 96 people died.

Liverpool fans were "in no way to blame" for the disaster, he said.

Sir Norman said he was sorry if he had "caused any further upset".

'Untenable position'

West Yorkshire Police Authority had earlier referred Sir Norman's conduct in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy to a special committee for investigation.

The chief constable was coming under mounting pressure to resign after releasing the statement suggesting Liverpool fans made the job of the police more difficult on the day of the tragedy.

On 15 April 1989, the former South Yorkshire officer was an off-duty inspector at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium, which was hosting an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

In his original statement, Sir Norman said: "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."

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, said many of his constituents were at the game and had called for Sir Norman to resign.

"After the statement he made when he seemed to have a go again at Liverpool fans, I think his position is untenable. He has got to go."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Sir Norman's comments were "insensitive and ill-judged".

'Deeply sorry'

In a fresh statement, Sir Norman said: "The fans of Liverpool Football Club were in no way to blame for the disaster that unfolded at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989."

That view had been formed after hearing all the evidence presented at the Taylor inquiry into the tragedy, said Sir Norman.

"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."

Sir Norman said he was "sorry if my earlier statement, intended to convey the same message, has caused any further upset".

The aim was not to "besmirch the fans", he said, and he was "deeply sorry that impression and slight has lingered for 23 years".

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