The Keighley father of Hillsborough victim Tony Bland has welcomed the announcement of the biggest ever inquiry into police actions in the UK, following a hard-hitting report on the disaster.
Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) yesterday said a large number of serving and former police officers would be investigated over what happened on the day of the tragedy in 1989, and during the alleged cover-up afterwards.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer said he would look at whether any individual or corporate body should be charged over the football stadium disaster.
IPCC deputy chairman Deborah Glass yesterday revealed that among the officers under investigation would be West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, whose conduct was referred to them by West Yorkshire Police Authority over allegations that he provided misleading information.
Miss Glass also revealed that Sir Norman was under investigation for allegations that he “attempted to influence the decision-making process of the West Yorkshire Police Authority” in connection with the referral.
Tony Bland was the 96th victim of the disaster. He spent nearly four years in a persistent vegetative state after his brain was starved of oxygen in the crush. He was allowed to die with dignity, aged 22, at Airedale General Hospital, Steeton, in 1993, after his parents won a legal battle to allow a life-sustaining feeding tube to be removed.
His father, Allan, said the investigation had to be done “thoroughly”.
He said: “It’s going to take time obviously, but it is welcome and we do think it should be done and it is to be a thorough investigation. It’s going to be a long drawn-out job.”
West Yorkshire Police Authority’s vice-chairman, Councillor Les Carter, said yesterday: “The police authority’s special committee met again recently and decided to voluntarily refer a conduct matter concerning the chief constable to the IPCC for an independent investigation.
“We will offer the commission every assistance in what we hope will be a prompt and proportionate investigation, but we do not think it is appropriate to elaborate further, as we don’t want to prejudice it in any way.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Sir Norman Bettison has consistently made the point since September 15, three days after the report was published, that these were matters that needed to be investigated formally and fairly by the IPCC.
“At the time, he immediately welcomed the police authority’s decision to refer this matter.
“He is on record as saying he is keen to co-operate with the IPCC inquiry, but now that has been launched, he has nothing further to add.”
West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Jon Christopher said questions needed to be asked about the police authority referral and said everything was being rushed.
He said: “Perhaps we need to sit back and take stock on where we are before commencing the investigation.
“There is time here to deal with this properly, look at all the options and make a decision. Knee-jerk reactions are not good for anybody.
“I think the IPCC, and even the DPP, have to be careful what they say at this point. It would be remiss of them to come out with public statements that could be taken out of context. Let’s get the investigation moving, see where it ends, and then make some balanced opinions.”