Campaigns - boycott to minute's silence

Since forming, as a proactive collection of Hillsborough families, survivors and supporters in Feb 1998, the Campaign has struggled to bring Hillsborough and the continued lack of justice back into the public domain on many occassions.

Many people are aware that all clubs now observe a minutes silence on 15th April following the group's letter campaign. In this section you can read on this and other successes the group has acheived, as well as ongoing activites.

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The Hillsborough Justice Campaign
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Jettison Bettison

On Tuesday 13th October 1998, Carol Gustaherson, the chairperson of Merseyside Police Authority, announces that Norman Bettison is to become the new Chief Constable of Merseyside. The following day, Hillsborough families and survivors are outraged, after it is revealed that Norman Bettison served on a special police propaganda team following the Hillsborough Disaster. Bettison was named in the House of Commons as being a member of this special unit.

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign's first major campaign was against the instatement of ex South Yorks Police Officer Bettison as Chief Constable of Merseyside. Bettison was heavily involved in the cover up of the disaster. We presented 15,000 signitures petitioning the Police Authority Appointments Committee, whom we also picketed.

Bettison's involvement at Hillsborough began as he sat in the West Stand and watched the disaster unfold. Whether Bettison was a paying spectator is not known for sure, but other top ranking South Yorkshire officers, were there enjoying the free hospitality of the match sponsors, with the option of free alcohol. Ironically, it was Liverpool fans who were blamed for having not paid for tickets and drinking too much alcohol.

Bettison's career before Hillsborough is interesting. He joined the police force at the tender age of 16, taking up a position with Sheffield and Rotherham Constabulary in 1972. By 1981 he was selected to enter the Accelerated Promotion Programme, promoted to Sergeant and sponsored to attend Oxford University where he studied and passed a first degree in Psychology and Philosophy.

By 1989, Bettison was Chief Superintendent, a definite 'rising star' in the police 'service' and attending Mallom Business School in Sheffield for a Masters Business administration. His career up to the point of 15th April 1989 had been wide and varied and as he sat in the West Stand, he was a witness to the disaster and not long after, he went back 'on duty' making his way to a nearby station to offer his 'help.'

Very soon after the disaster, Bettison's talents were called upon by his colleagues in the force. Bettison was one of a unit of 9 high ranking police officers whose task was to deflect the blame away from South Yorkshire Police. This unit oversaw a lot of vital evidence, and they were no doubt fully aware of the stories 'leaking' to the media by anonymous South Yorkshire Police sources.

Bettison says his own role in the disaster was 'peripheral' and he would have us believe his role in the unit was something he done as 'a relatively junior officer.' Given Bettison's fast rise through the ranks. And his substantial academic qualifications, it is likely that Bettison's role was more substantial than he, or anyone else is admitting to. Although he admits to being 'a small part of the jigsaw' our question is - just how vital is that particular part of the jigsaw?

Bettison was finally approved by an 11-3 vote by members for Merseyside's Police Authority on 2nd November 1998. The actual day's proceedings were a comedy of errors, and the authority members literally fell over themselves in attempts to pass the buck.

Bettison's nameplate is now firmly screwed into place at this office in Canning Street Headquarters. Bettison knows most Merseysiders don't want him, but he soon formulates a strategy to try and hoodwink the local population into accepting him. Even though the Hillsborough Justice Campaign presented a 15,000 petition against his appointment.

A psychology degree comes in handy when your reputation is initially held to public ridicule. Bettison claims his 'honeymoon period is over' but it's hard to think of any other newly weds who are accused of being part of a Gestapo like propaganda unit. Bettison decides to do a bit for local charity and his first public relations exercise comes when he is associated with a children's charity. It's a pity he wasn't as charitable to the children killed at Hillsborough or the bereaved parents and survivors.

The majority of people feel that Merseyside is tarnished by Bettison's presence and public confidence in the police is already at an all time low. Since Bettison's appointment, he has been able to accumulate many column inches in the local press and has been able to project an image of himself, which conveniently steers away from any mention of Hillsborough .

On the First anniversary of Bettison's appointment, he was interviewed in the Liverpool Echo newspaper. The interview conveniently ignored any mention of Hillsborough , but Bettison gave us an insight into the strange workings of his mind. Bettison starts off in robust style by reassuring Merseysiders that despite our lack of police resources…..'we (Merseyside Police that is!) could invade a South American Country.'

The only vaguest reference to Hillsborough is an off hand suggestion that Bettison arrived in 'difficult circumstances.' Bettison himself says the appointment 'felt right' before he even applied. Many believe Bettison's 'feeling right' about the job may have stemmed from the fact that Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, wanted Bettison in the from the beginning.

If Bettison wanted to 'invade a South American Country' he wound no doubt call upon the services of the Operational Support Division to stop any resistance. Bettison's shock troops were in action on 13th September 1999, allegedly beating up Liverpool supporters and shoppers in the 'Slater Street Incident' as it is now known. Rather than waiting for Bettison to conduct inquiries into the incident, most fans caught up in the trouble have decided to sue the police instead. A wise move.

Despite his promises to 'move heaven and earth to meet the Hillsborough families.' He has so far neglected to use the far more easier route of the postal service to forward a full and detailed account of his actions on 15th April 1989 and thereafter, to the survivors and families in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.