Bettison quits as police chief
Under-fire West Yorkshire chief constable Sir Norman Bettison has resigned ahead of a meeting to consider his role after Hillsborough.
He tendered his resignation ahead of a meeting on Wednesday which was scheduled to consider his role in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which he investigated for South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police Authority vice-chair Les Carter confirmed.
Sir Norman has been under growing pressure since the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was published and he is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
In a statement issued through the authority, Sir Norman said he had never blamed the fans for the tragedy.
Sir Norman said: "First, and foremost, the Hillsborough tragedy 23 years ago left 96 families bereaved and countless others injured and affected by it.
"I have always felt the deepest compassion and sympathy for the families, and I recognise their longing to understand exactly what happened on that April afternoon.
"I have never blamed the fans for causing the tragedy."
Sir Norman dismissed reports of a conversation he had in a pub in which he allegedly said he was "concocting" a story for South Yorkshire Police.
He said; "The suggestion that I would say to a passing acquaintance that I was deployed as part of a team tasked to 'concoct a false story of what happened', is both incredible and wrong. That isn't what I was tasked to do, and I did not say that."
Sir Norman said the police authority and some of the candidates in the forthcoming PCC elections made it clear that they wanted him to go.
"I do so, not because of any allegations about the past, but because I share the view that this has become a distraction to policing in West Yorkshire now and in the future."
Mr Carter said: "I can confirm that the Police Authority has accepted Sir Norman's resignation with immediate effect.
"The media attention and Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation is proving to be a huge distraction for the force, at a time when it is trying to maintain performance and make savings of £100 million.
"We therefore believe that his decision is in the best interest of the communities of West Yorkshire.
"Sir Norman has been West Yorkshire's Chief Constable since 2006.
"It should be recognised that Sir Norman has served West Yorkshire well. He has reduced crime, increased confidence in policing and made a huge contribution to neighbourhood policing. On behalf of the Police Authority, I would like to thank him for what he has achieved here and wish him the best for the future."
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, welcomed the announcement but said Sir Norman's pension should be frozen while the investigation takes place into the police cover-up highlighted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
She said: "I'm absolutely delighted he's gone but as far as I am concerned he should have been sacked.
"I would now like to know what payments and pension he's going to get.
"Any financial benefits should be frozen until the outcome of the investigation into the cover-up.
"This is not the end of it, the next thing is to make sure his role is properly investigated."
Mrs Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, said the families had "no vendetta" against the former chief constable.
"He's not the only one who we believe took part in this cover-up. But as a senior officer he should have been honest from the very beginning," she said.
"He allowed the families to suffer for 23 years while knowing the truth all along."
Sir Norman's decision comes two days after Merseyside MP Maria Eagle told the Commons about the claim the chief constable had bragged about "concocting" a story about Hillsborough.
She read from a letter sent by retired civil servant John Barry, who later repeated his allegations in TV interviews.
Mr Barry said: "Norman Bettison stood opposite me and said 'I've been asked by senior officers to pull together the South Yorkshire Police evidence of the public inquiry and we're going to try and concoct a story that all the Liverpool fans were drunk and that we were afraid they were going to force down the gates, so we decided to open them'.
"I was absolutely astounded. He knew I'd been there. I was in the seats immediately above where people were being crushed and people were dying. I was astounded he said this to me."
Mr Barry said Sir Norman made the comments in a Sheffield pub when they were both part-time students.
Ms Eagle said there would be "mixed views" among the families about his decision now to resign.
"I have said for many years in Parliament, as long ago as 1998, that he had an involvement in what everybody now realises was a major cover-up," she told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
"Now the IPCC and the DPP are investigating following the publication of the independent panel report. I think that is right. We will see what conclusions that they come to.
"I think there will be mixed views amongst those affected by Hillsborough - the families and survivors - because many people wanted him to stay in post so if there were conduct charges, they could be laid. That now can't happen.
"I think it is important for the good of confidence in policing that this matter is swiftly concluded and the investigations come to conclusions and if there are (criminal) charges to be laid, they are laid."
On Tuesday Mark Burns-Williamson, who resigned as chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Authority on October 7 to stand in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections, increased the pressure by calling for the chief to step down.
Sir Norman was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster.
He attended the match at Sheffield Wednesday's ground as a spectator but, after the disaster, he was involved in the subsequent force investigation.
The police authority has referred Sir Norman to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which is investigating his role.
Policing minister Damian Green said it was important that the West Yorkshire force was able to get on with the job of policing.
"It is very, very important that the police force and the new police and incoming police and crime commissioner can actually get on with a very important day job," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.
"If the inevitable deep concerns surrounding all of this - which, clearly, would be very, very understandable - were getting in the way of doing that job, then it is clearly sensible to allow the West Yorkshire Police to get on with their important work."