Hillsborough disaster charges against ex-police constable Norman Bettison dropped
A former police chief constable accused of lying over his role in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 fans died will no longer face any charges, prosecutors said on Tuesday, after a review of evidence.
Norman Bettison had been charged with four offences of misconduct in public office related to alleged lies about his involvement in the aftermath of the disaster and the culpability of fans.
Prosecutors announced last year that they would bring criminal charges against six people including Bettison and other former police chiefs over the deaths and an alleged subsequent cover-up by police of their own mistakes.
The victims, all which were Liverpool supporters, died in an overcrowded, fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, during an FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Police at first blamed the tragedy on drunken fans, an explanation that was always rejected by survivors, relatives of the victims and the wider Liverpool community. Families spent decades campaigning for justice for the 96.
The Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday they had discontinued the case against Bettison following a number of developments.
"These include changes in the evidence of two witnesses and the death of a third witness," it said in a statement. "Our latest review of the evidence has concluded the collective impact of these developments means there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
"I appreciate this news will be disappointing for the families and the CPS will meet with them in person to explain the decision."
In a brief statement outside court, Bettison said his role around Hillsborough had been misrepresented.
"I have 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.
Charges remain in place against other officers including former police chief superintendent David Duckenfield who was in charge of police operations at Hillsborough on the fateful day. He was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.