Families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster have vowed to challenge a decision to drop charges against a former police chief.
Sir Norman Bettison, ex-chief inspector of West Yorkshire Police, will no longer face prosecution for misconduct in a public office.
He said the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision had “retained my faith in the rule of law” and “vindicated” his denial of doing anything wrong.
The CPS claimed there had been “significant developments” since the charge in June 2017 that had “affected the available evidence”.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the group had “grave concerns about the handling of this case”.
“We will be exercising our right to an independent review under the right to review scheme,” she confirmed.
“It is our view that the wrong charge was brought in the first place and we will be using the review process to argue this point strongly.”
Steve Kelly, the brother of victim Michael, 38, said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I feel as if I’ve been beaten up this morning.”
Lou Brookes, the sister of victim Andrew, added: “I’m not shocked, I totally expected it and predicted it. I have no faith and no trust or confidence in the CPS, the IPCC and Operation Resolve.”
Sir Norman, 62, was off-duty at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989 – watching as a spectator.
In the aftermath of the tragedy that saw 96 fans unlawfully killed, he was tasked with finding material for police lawyers to present to the public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Taylor.
He later applied for the job of chief constable in Merseyside – an appointment that caused controversy when it emerged he had not mentioned his work on Hillsborough in the application form.
Four charges included accusations Sir Norman falsely described his role in the response as “peripheral” and that he lied about never having having tried to shift blame for the disaster “on to the shoulders of Liverpool supporters”.
He was also accused of two further claims of saying he never “besmirched” Liverpool fans and never offering any interpretation other than that the behaviour of Liverpool fans did not cause the disaster.
Speaking outside Preston Crown Court, Sir Norman said nothing in his experience of the inquest or subsequent charges had “done anything” to diminish the sympathy he felt for Hillsborough victims and their families.
“I’ve 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.
“Six years ago I was driven from the job that had been my vocation for 40 years.
“And some commentators who didn’t really know anything about me or the facts, rushed to judgement and pre-determined my guilt.
“But something I learned early in my police service is that no injustice was ever satisfactorily resolved through being unjust.”
Explaining the decision to stop criminal proceedings against him, CPS director of legal services Sue Hemming said there had been “significant developments which have affected the available evidence” since he was charged in June 2017.
Two witnesses had changed their evidence and a third had died, she added.
“Our latest review of the evidence has concluded the collective impact of these developments means there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction,” Ms Hemming said.
“I appreciate this news will be disappointing for the families and the CPS will meet with them in person to explain the decision.”
Five other men, including Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield, are due to face trial for offences related to the disaster next year.
Due to the ongoing cases, Ms Hemming said it was “extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information which could in any way prejudice those proceedings”.
From – SkyNews