There have been calls for Sir Norman Bettison over his role in the Hillsborough disaster (999tv)
There have been calls for Sir Norman Bettison over his role in the Hillsborough disaster (999tv)

The chief constable for West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison, has defended his actions during the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and insisted he has nothing to hide.

There have been calls for Bettison's resignation following the force's response to the disaster and subsequent follow-up.

The Hillsborough Independent Report showed how South Yorkshire Police altered statements relating to events of the day to remove any criticism of the force's actions during the disaster in an attempt to pass blame on to Liverpool fans.

Bettinson issued a statement in which he accepted that the deaths of 96 fans at Hillsborough in Sheffield was due to a lack of police control but also added that fans' behaviour at the ground made policing "harder than it needed to be".

Trevor Hicks, chairman of the Hillsborough families support group whose two daughters died in the tragedy, said Bettison should resign following the revelations.

Hicks said: "If he is anything of a man, he will stand down and scurry up a drainpipe somewhere."

Pressure built on Bettison to resign after former home secretary Jack Straw said the police chief would consider his position in light of of the damming report.

Straw told BBC Rado 4's Today's programme. "He's bound to be considering [his position] - it's inevitable. He can read the newspapers. I would have hoped he would have been considering it for some time."

In a lengthy statement, Bettinson said he played no part in the cover-up and would not resign as chief constable.

He said: "The more we learn about events, the more we may understand. I sat through every single day of the Taylor Inquiry in the summer of 1989. I learned so much.

"Taylor was right in saying that the disaster was caused, mainly, through a lack of police control.

"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 kickoff 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.

"In the absence of all the facts, I was called upon to resign 14 years ago, when I became the Chief Constable of Merseyside. I really welcome the disclosure of all the facts that can be known about the Hillsborough tragedy because I have absolutely nothing to hide.

"I read the 395-page report from cover to cover last night and that remains my position.

Bettinson added about his role in the tragedy on 15 April, 1989: "I never altered a statement nor asked for one to be altered."

Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Garston and Halewood, told parliament that following the tragedy South Yorkshire Police had "orchestrated what can only be described as a black propaganda campaign".

Hillsborough: South Yorkshire Police Chief Sir Norman Bettison Full Statement