Under-fire West Yorkshire chief constable Norman Bettison has resigned.
He tendered his resignation ahead of a meeting today which was scheduled to consider his role in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which he investigated for South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police Authority vice-chair Les Carter confirmed.
Bettison has been under growing pressure since the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was published and he is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
In a statement issued through the authority, Bettison said he had never blamed the fans for the tragedy.
He said: “First, and foremost, 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.”
Bettison dismissed reports of a conversation he had in a pub in which he allegedly said he was “concocting” a story for South Yorkshire Police.
He said; “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.”
Bettison said the police authority and some of the candidates in the forthcoming PCC elections made it clear that they wanted him to go.
“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.”
Mr Carter said: ``I can confirm that the Police Authority has accepted Norman's resignation with immediate effect.
“The media attention and Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation is proving to be a huge distraction for the force, at a time when it is trying to maintain performance and make savings of £100 million.
“We therefore believe that his decision is in the best interest of the communities of West Yorkshire.
“Norman has been West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable since 2006.
“It should be recognised that 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.”
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, welcomed the announcement but said Norman's pension should be frozen while the investigation takes place into the police cover-up highlighted by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
She said: “I’m absolutely delighted he’s gone but as far as I am concerned he should have been sacked.
“I would now like to know what payments and pension he’s going to get.
“Any financial benefits should be frozen until the outcome of the investigation into the cover-up.
“This is not the end of it, the next thing is to make sure his role is properly investigated.”
Mrs Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, said the families had “no vendetta” against the former chief constable.
“He’s not the only one who we believe took part in this cover-up. But as a senior officer he should have been honest from the very beginning,” she said.
“He allowed the families to suffer for 23-years while knowing the truth all along.”