Football: British police chief slammed in watchdog Hillsborough report

The ex-police chief who played a key role in the report on how officers handled the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster would have a case to answer for gross misconduct, the police watchdog said Thursday.

Norman Bettison "had a case to answer for discreditable conduct and abuse of authority, breaches which, if proven in a disciplinary hearing, would amount to gross misconduct as they would justify dismissal," said the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

However, as Bettison quit as chief constable of the West Yorkshire Police force in October, "he cannot face a disciplinary hearing in which the evidence could be tested.

"Instead, the IPCC is publishing its findings for the public to judge," it said.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans were crushed to death in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in Sheffield, northern England, in April 1989. It was the worst sporting disaster in British history.

The fatal crush was caused by huge overcrowding on a terrace before an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

To ease overcrowding outside, police opened an exit gate, allowing supporters to flood into the central pens. Fenced in, Liverpool fans were crushed to death.

The referral to the IPCC came after a damning report released in September revealed that police had altered more than 160 witness statements as part of an attempt to divert blame towards Liverpool supporters.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel's report was published after an exhaustive review of thousands of formerly secret documents, which only came after years of pressure from the families of the victims.

The report Thursday was into claims that Bettison tried to influence the West Yorkshire Police Authority supervisory body's decision-making process in relation to the referral to the IPCC.

Bettison's lawyers questioned the "fairness" of the probe into his dealings with the police authority.