Charges dropped against former police chief in 1989 disaster

Charges were dropped Tuesday against a former British police chief over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster that killed nearly 100 people.


Ninety-six football fans were crushed to death on April 15, 1989, during a rush to get into the Hillsborough soccer grounds in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced in June 2017 that former chief Norman Bettison was one of six charged with four offenses of misconduct, for supposedly lying about his involvement in the aftermath of the disaster.

For years, the incident was blamed on drunken and unruly fans. A campaign by survivors and relatives of those who died resulted in a government inquest, which found police and soccer team officials responsible.

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“My involvement in the events around Hillsborough has often been misrepresented even in parliament,” Bettison told The Independent Tuesday. “Since then, I’ve been forced to deny strenuously that I have done anything wrong in the aftermath of the disaster and today’s outcome vindicates that position.”

He said he was “driven from the job that had been his vocation for 40 years,” because people “rushed to judgment” about his involvement.

Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to convict Bettison. The Crown Prosecution Service said because of contradictions in the statements of two witnesses, it would drop the case.

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Victims’ families have vowed to challenge the decision.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said it had “grave concerns” about how the case has been handled.

“We will be exercising our right to an independent review under the right to review scheme,” Aspinall said. “It is our view that the wrong charge was brought in the first place and we will be using the review process to argue this point strongly.”

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Two other high-ranking police officers, Donald Denton and Alan Foster, were charged last year with acts intended to disrupt justice, along with attorney Peter Metcalf.

David Duckenfield, commander for the South Yorkshire Police on the day of the game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence for 95 of the 96 who died, since the 96th died four years later.

Graham Henry Mackrell, former secretary of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, was charged with three offenses relating to health and safety at sports grounds. The five others are due to face trial next year.

BySommer Brokaw