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Senior officer 'influenced evidence in Lawrence inquiry'

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Sir Norman Bettison

A SENIOR officer has been referred to the police watchdog over allegations he tried to influence the way a key witness gave evidence during an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating Sir Norman George Bettison over his role in the West Yorkshire Police force’s report on a man who was due to give evidence in Bradford in October 1998.

It comes after the Home Secretary ordered all police forces who had been involved with Stephen Lawrence to check their houses were in order.

Her actions follow the claims of former undercover officer-turned-whistleblower Peter Francis who revealed he was asked by his bosses to dig up dirt on the murdered teenager’s family following the killing in April 1993.

Current West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, who made the referral alongside West Yorkshire Police, said: "I have become aware of three documents following a thorough search requested by West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Mark Gilmore.

"These documents raise significant concerns over the role of Sir Norman Bettison at the time he was Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1998 in commissioning a report to be prepared in the respect of a key witness appearing before the Macpherson Inquiry.

"This may suggest an attempt to intervene in the course of a public inquiry and influence the manner in which the testimony of a witness, who was due to present evidence before it, was received."

He added: "This is a matter which needs to be thoroughly investigated and if wrongdoing is demonstrated those responsible must face the consequences of their actions.

"Doreen Lawrence and her family need their treatment by the police service reviewed independently and this must be done as a matter of urgency. I am sure the Independent Police Complaints Commission will do the same for these separate issues of concern indicating possible corrupt practices in the later period around the Macpherson Inquiry."

Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Mark Gilmore, who also informed the IPCC of the material, says an immediate and fully independent investigation wass needed.

“The allegations made against two other Police Forces and the material we have found in connection with the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry raise significant issues of not just public confidence and trust, but also public interest,” Gilmore said.

“In the interests of openness and transparency I have today referred this matter to the IPCC so that an independent body can assess these matters so that the public can have full confidence in any outcome. West Yorkshire Police will cooperate fully with the IPCC and assist in any way we can to get to the truth.”

Bettison was asked to step down from his role as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 2012 amid controversy about his role in the Hillsborough cover-up of police errors.

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