Sir Norman Bettinson said he resigned as his role  had become "a distraction to policing" (West Yorkshire Police)
Sir Norman Bettinson said he resigned as his role had become "a distraction to policing" (West Yorkshire Police)

The chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettinson, has resigned following continuing criticism about his role in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

Bettinson originally planned to retire in March so that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) could investigate accusations that he gave misleading information to the police and altered statements in the wake of the disaster.

Following an increase in calls for his resignation and allegations in parliament he had "boasted" about his Hillsborough cover-up, Bettinson announced his resignation with immediate effect as the furore surrounding him had become "a distraction to policing in West Yorkshire."

The decision was made in a meeting by the West Yorkshire Police Authority, who met to discuss Bettinson's future.

Bettinson, who was a South Yorkshire Police inspector in 1989 but at the game at Hillsborough as a spectator, always denied the accusation against him and reiterated his resignation has nothing to do with "allegations of the past".

He said: "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.

"I refute the report of a conversation 23 years ago. 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.

Bettinson added: "There is a due process to deal with any allegation through the IPCC and the criminal law. I remain consistent in my desire to assist those enquiries to the full, both now and in the future. These processes should help to separate facts from speculation.

"I sought to remain in post to address those allegations. It now appears that that will take some time. The Police Authority, and some of the candidates in the forthcoming PCC elections, have made it clear that they wish me to go sooner. 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."

Councillor Les Carter, vice-chair of the Police Authority, said: "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."

Candidates for the upcoming West Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner had called for Bettinson to stand down immediately from his role rather than wait until March following the allegations made by the shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle in the House of Commons.

Mark Burns-Williamson said it was in the "best interests" of the force for him to stand down, while Conservative candidate Geraldine Carter described his role as "untenable".

Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood, previously described Bettinson as part of a "black propaganda unit" in the aftermath of the disaster,