Page last updated Sunday 7th July 2013 at 1930hrs
uPSD have, for some time, been interested in the credentials (Sir) Norman Bettison presented to Merseyside Police Authority when applying for the post of Chief Constable of Merseyside Police in September 1998. A redacted copy of the CV, plus a raft of other useful and connected documents, can be viewed on the stupendous Hillsborough Independent Panel website by clicking here.
Bettison, complete with the dodgy ‘tache he sported at the time is pictured above right with Carol Gustafson, Chairwoman and blusterer-in-chief of the Police Authority.
The very first point that attracted our attention was the crucial fact that he made no mention of Hillsborough whatsoever on that CV and, indeed, commences his career history some six months later, in October 1989, as a Superintendent in the Traffic Division of the thoroughly discredited South Yorkshire Police. There is no mention, whatsoever, of the role Bettison played in the Wain “Black Ops” Unit or his role as Chief Constable Peter Wright’s eyes and ears at the Taylor Inquiry, and his close liaison with the legal team acting for SYP during those hearings. That legal team led by solicitors, Hammond Suddards, were still communicating with Bettison in November 1989 which casts an initial doubt.
Another signal moment for uPSD was when a whistleblower came forward, who was a colleague of Bettison’s after he joined the equally disgraced West Yorkshire Police force in May 1993, and provided the following information:
“You have uncovered a hornets nest by drawing attention to Norman Bettison’s application form for the Chief Constable of Merseyside. As many officers serving at the time will know, it is packed with outright lies and exaggerations. You must get this added to the investigation into his conduct by the IPCC. You must also get this cut and pasted on to the website and given wider circulation in the Yorkshire Post. There are dozens of people serving and retired who will say it is lie after lie. The man is an out and out liar, end to end. Whatever good he is supposed to have done, it is now clear that it is all built on lie after lie.
“As Assistant Chief Constable in West Yorkshire Police he held only the IT, personnel and the operations support portfolios. He says in his narrative that he held all the portfolios. Everyone knows that the key portfolio for ACC’s is divisional policing, or ‘operations’. He never held this portfolio. He never got anywhere near it. He goes on to claim that he improved divisional performance by quarterly performance review meetings. This never happened. He pretends he was in charge. For less than 12 months he held Ops Support, which was a couple of dysfunctional headquarters departments: criminal justice administration, dogs and horses, and crime squads. These were all falling apart under his ‘leadership’, they were his first and only operational commands as an ACC. He did’t have a clue what was going on in there, they were all operational and financial disaster zones. His first ACC job was total back of house, these were not far from that. He deliberately makes out he was running divisions. He had nothing to do with divisional policing.
“I do not remember him or anyone in West Yorkshire Police having anything other than the most insignificant role in the Leeds railway station bomb. It was all run by the Met Police and Regional Anti Terrorist Unit in Manchester as part of a series of investigations up and down the country at that time. Nothing ever came of the ‘Leeds investigation’, there wasn’t one. Norman was well out of that loop.
“He says he dealt successfully with two high profile employment claims. Oh yes, what were they then? Look up the Vento case. That was his HR leadership legacy, a humiliating climb down after he had moved on because the evidence, as he says, his long and detailed evidence, did not stack up with the reality. His so called success led to the biggest ET payout ever in the country. As for his selection policy, many of these were abject disasters and never moved upwards, just sat in post for 5, 10 and even more years because he had promoted incompetents.
“The IPCC need more info on Bettison’s breadth of deceit right up to his resignation, otherwise he will wriggle away again. I have taken issues on him to the IPCC previously, pre-Hillsborough, but they just dismissed them as ‘not worthy’. There are now signs of systemic gross misconduct“.
How substantive is this information and can it be corroborated? The source wishes to remain anonymous as we believe he is a seving officer in another Force, but he (or she) was plainly very well placed at the time. Just as clearly he/she did not care for Bettison, or his policing ability. For those reasons it is incumbent on uPSD not to simply satisfy the bloodlust of what may be a vengeful ex-colleague or large sections of the public who are, quite correctly in our view, baying for removal of Bettison’s knighthood and pension. Our role is best fulfilled by equipping the Hillsborough families, the Merseyside and West Yorkshire taxpayers and the appropriate investigating authorities with the leads and information to be able to do just that.
As far as two of the specifics are concerned – the Leeds bomb and the Vento employment tribunal case – it certainly does stand up. We have on uPSD’s team a retired officer who was involved, himself, on the bomb enquiry and he confirms the whistleblower’s account. The Angela Vento case is self-evident by referring to Court transcripts (click here). It was a huge financial and reputational disaster for West Yorkshire Police. The case did also embrace another disgraced ACPO officer in the form of Derek Bonnard, the recently sacked Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland (Read more by clicking here). Bonnard was a rising star in Bettison’s time of holding the West Yorkshire Police personnel portfolio and was Divisional Commander in Bradford where Ms Vento was sexually harassed.
Another personnel disaster for Bettison was the disgraced C/Supt John Holt whom Bettison recruited, oddly enough, from Merseyside and was to go on to disgrace the entire police service with his leadership of the nationally-known scandals surrounding Operation Douglas and the Christopher Alder death in custody. The outfall from both of those cases still rumbles on 15 years later. In stark contrast to the claims made by Bettison on his CV there are two other notable high profile failures: North Yorkshire Police’s ex Chief Constable Graeme Maxwell and his former Deputy Adam Briggs who both brought that Force and the police service into disrepute. Another Bettison over-promoted ‘favourite’, T/CC John Parkinson, has only very recently slunk off into early retirement thus avoiding a raft of integrity and misconduct allegations that were the subject of outside force investigation. Read more on Parkinson by clicking here.
With regard to the much of the rest, it is a matter of public record which sections of the Command portfolio Bettison held between 1993 and 1998 and there is certainly a credibility gap between Bettison’s self-congratulatory presentation of his abilities and experience – and what he actually did and achieved. The sharp-eyed amongst readers will note that Bettison’s application was made on letterhead that carried the annotation of Divisional Policing (West).
The fact that concerns have already been raised by the whistleblower with the IPCC also adds weight. To the certain knowledge of uPSD, the record of the Independent Police Complaints Commission with police whistleblower evidence in West Yorkshire is lamentable, so the experience of the latest individual to come forward simply fits that pattern.
Returning to the Bettison CV, and the skewed selection process, we highlight a number of flaws that commence with the fact that Bettison ‘made the grade’ in only two of the nine key competencies set out by the interviewing Committee. Yet he was consistently described as ‘an outstanding candidate’. He plainly, and evidentially, was not. He was, at best, the leader of a very poor group of applicants for the Chief Constable role. So why peddle a lie and foist someone on Liverpool who was not up to the job in the first place?
On his CV Bettison was at pains to point out his role as Gold Commander during the 1995 Bradford Race Riots. Not mentioned was the fact that Bettison had subsequently sought to smear a key witness in the Macpherson Inquiry three years later in which West Yorkshire Police were heavily criticised for their insensitive and heavy handed approach to the conflict. An act that will surely lead to criminal charges being brought against him as the acts are well evidenced.
Merseyside’s Police Authority’s David “Diddy” Henshaw (pictured top left) who was Chief Executive and highly instrumental in Bettison’s appointment – and regular purveyor of the outstanding candidate mantra – is perhaps best known in Liverpool for spending £644 of taxpayers money on a three night stay at the plush Dorchester Hotel in London “to attend an awards evening“. Like Bettison, Henshaw was knighted after shafting the Merseyside public by appointing him as their Chief Constable in the face of a 15,000 strong petition and resignation of three Police Authority members over the way the whole affair was handled. The actual day’s Merseyside’s Police Authority proceedings, presided over by Henshaw and held on 2nd November 1998, were a comedy of errors, and the Members who remained after the honourable three resigned, literally tripped over themselves in attempts to pass the blame. They also, seemingly, never sought to challenge Bettison’s role at the Bradford Riots despite ample evidence of criticism of his role there being available at the time.
The role of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Dan Crompton, will also come under close scrutiny, as will the evidence connected to Crompton that was published by the Hillsborough Independent Panel (read by clicking here). Crompton will, of course, be forever remembered by the Hillsborough families, and survivors, for the disgraceful remarks made about them at the time of Bettison’s engagement by Merseyside. He described Liverpool justice campaigners opposed to the appointment of Bettison as “vindictive and vexatious“. Crompton also failed to mention at any stage that he had worked for three years in Wakefield, within 600yds of Bettison’s office at West Yorkshire Police HQ, and that Bettison was a favoured son of HMIC and his word was accepted as gospel – and never independently challenged. That is further borne out by Crompton’s HMIC boss, Sir David O’Dowd, by presenting Bettison’s minimised role post-Hillsborough to the Police Authority as “fact”.
We also question the part played by Jack Straw who seemed to favour Bettison as ‘his man’ for Merseyside. Straw was nine years later to institute the Stuart-Smith Judicial Scrutiny after briefing the judge that there was to be no judicial inquiry to follow.
The two referees that Bettison gave on his Job Application, whose names were officially redacted, have now been identified by uPSD as long-term Leeds City Councillor, Neil Taggart and West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable at the time, Graham Moore who was an Assistant Chief Constable with none other than South Yorkshire Police at the time of the Hillsborough disaster. Moore was the officer who ultimately decided that C/Supt David Duckenfield and Supt Bernard Murray would ultimately face no internal disciplinary charges. Moore also described Bettison as an “outstanding candidate” according to HMIC. Which was not the way a number of other senior officers would have described him. Or was he trying to offload Bettison, who had also applied for the Chief Constable’s job at Humberside Police using almost identical credentials?
By February 2002 the Merseyside Chief’s job that Bettison, just over 3 years earlier, claimed felt “so right” had somehow lost its appeal (Would Bettison have told the people of the city of Hull that their job felt “so right” we wonder?). The HMIC/Crompton connection came to the fore again as he was approached by them to take up a new role. He accepted the job with HMIC and handed in his notice at Merseyside. However, negotiations broke down with the Home Office concerning his remuneration package (salary £117,000 pa) and he decided to stay with Merseyside until something better came along.
The ‘something better’ turned up in the shape of another Home Office sinecure. He retired from Merseyside Police in December 2004 to become Chief Executive of Centrex, which provided training and development to police forces in the UK and enforcement agencies throughout the world until it was abolished in March 2007. By which time Bettison had jumped ship again to re-join West Yorkshire Police in December 2006. He had been paid his Merseyside police pension (a dagger through the heart of almost every Liverpudlian) and his Home Office salary throughout his time at Centrex.
His return to the police service was mired in controversy, yet again, as returned to West Yorkshire on a salary of £153,000 and then expected Merseyside Police Authority to continue paying his pension. There was no provision in Police Regulations that would permit MPA to do this and their decision sparked a legal battle with Bettison, as he attempted to secure a pay-and-pension deal of about £240,000.
After threatening to take Merseyside to High Court, via Judicial Review, to secure his pension payments, he backed down when it became clear that without Home Office backing he could not win. In May 2007 West Yorkshire Police Authority, led by current Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, made a “locally agreed package” with Mr Bettison and gave him a £60,000 pay rise which took his salary to an astonishing £213,000. uPSD are investigating the provenance of some of those payments under Police Regulations. They included “Career development allowance” for an officer that had already retired from the police service once and was likely to do so again if a better offer came along.
Bettison was also criticised heavily for using publicly funded PR staff to fight an ‘editing war’ on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia website. Read Daily Mail story here. He took exception, in particular, to being described as a “greedy, vain moron”
In the Millennium New Year’s Honours list, he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in spite of the lingering suspicions of his Hillsborough role, and was knighted in 2006. This being sponsored, no doubt, by the Home Office who, by then, were more aware than anyone of the scope and extent of the Hillsborough cover-up.
Liverpool John Moores University came under pressure to rescind Bettison’s Honorary Fellowship, awarded in 2004, following publication of Hillsborough Independent Panel’s damning Report. The University response to protesters was that requests to strip the honour were being treated with the ‘utmost seriousness’ but that it would be ‘prejudicial‘ to IPCC investigations to make a decision before the outcome of those investigations were known.On 9th April 2013, LJMU belatedly announced they were withdrawing the fellowship.