'Plebgate': Police officers stand by account of Mitchell meeting

 
Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell resigned as chief whip following his meeting with three police officers

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Three police officers involved in a dispute with Andrew Mitchell about the "plebgate" affair say they do not owe an apology to the former chief whip.

They told MPs that they stood by their "accurate" account of a meeting with Mr Mitchell in October 2012.

Mr Mitchell, who resigned over the row, has challenged the officers' claim that he was not open about the incident.

But Chris Jones, from West Midlands Police, said he was "not convinced we have done anything wrong".

No action was taken against Sgt Jones, Insp Ken MacKaill, of West Mercia Police, and Det Sgt Stuart Hinton, of Warwickshire Police, following an internal review by the forces concerned into their conduct.

But the head of West Mercia Police told the Commons Home Affairs Committee the handling of the affair had been "clumsy" and the report and its recommendations should be independently reviewed.

'Room for doubt'

However, the chief constables of Warwickshire and the West Midlands said they did not feel the same because they believed the original decisions had been properly reached.

Sgt Jones, Insp MacKaill and Det Sgt Hinton's meeting with Mr Mitchell took place weeks after an altercation at the gates of Downing Street where the Tory MP was accused of swearing at police and calling them "plebs" - allegations that he has always denied.

In a briefing after the meeting, the officers - all members of the Police Federation - told journalists that Mr Mitchell had refused to elaborate on what he did or did not say during the original incident.

Mr Mitchell insists a transcript of the meeting, which he secretly recorded, shows that he apologised for swearing and expressly denied that he had used the word "pleb".

Asked by Labour MP Keith Vaz whether he owed an apology to Mr Mitchell, Mr MacKaill said no and insisted he stood by "what I believe was an accurate account of the meeting".

He said he believed he had been right to call for Mr Mitchell to resign - believing at the time that his alleged behaviour in Downing Street represented a "casual dismissal of police integrity".

Although serious questions have since been raised about the credibility of police reports about Mr Mitchell's conduct, Mr MacKaill said he had "no way of knowing that at the time".

Mr Hinton said the three had shown "poor judgement" in speaking to the media immediately after the meeting without time for reflection about what had been discussed.

Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams: "I do not consider, on the balance of probabilities, that the officers have lied."

He said he was prepared to apologise to colleagues, the public and "anyone else involved" if the three "may have said things which could be interpreted as being misleading".

But he added: "We certainly did not intend to do that and we certainly did not lie intentionally." And he said he believed there was "no conspiracy to unseat" Mr Mitchell.

But Conservative MP Michael Ellis, a member of the committee, accused the officers of "disgraceful conduct", saying they had "spun a yarn to the press to get someone out of high office".

Mr Vaz said their answers had been "most unsatisfactory" and he would be calling their media adviser, John Gaunt, to answer questions about his role in the affair.

'Room for doubt'

Earlier, Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams, who led an inquiry into the October 2012 meeting and whether the officers had tried to discredit Mr Mitchell, said he believed the trio should face disciplinary action.

Mr Reakes-Williams, head of professional standards at Warwickshire and West Mercia Police, said the officers' comments to the media "may have had the impact of misleading the public about what happened" as they had given the impression that Mr Mitchell had not sought to explain what happened outside Downing Street.

However, he said he did not believe there had been "a deliberate intention to mislead" as there was "some room for doubt and interpretation" about whether Mr Mitchell had given an "absolutely full account" of what took place.

After the October 2012 meeting, Ken Mackaill said Mr Mitchell had to resign

He said he believed the officers should face misconduct charges but not the more serious charge of gross misconduct which, if proven, would result in potential dismissal.

West Mercia Police ultimately concluded that there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct, a decision which the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it disagreed with.

But Chief Constable David Shaw, head of West Mercia Police, said he now believed the report should be independently reviewed, suggesting the whole episode had been "unedifying" and had damaged public confidence in the police.

He also said he had written to Mr Mitchell to offer him a "profound and unreserved" apology for what had happened.

Very unsatisfactory'

Also giving evidence to MPs, the deputy chair of the IPCC Deborah Glass said the transcript and recording of the meeting indicated Mr Mitchell had "answered the questions he was asked".

The police investigation had been "thorough and sound" but she believed its conclusions were wrong. "The evidence and conclusions were so at odds that I thought I had to put that on the public record," she said.

At the time of the October 2012 meeting, the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, was involved in a dispute with the government over changes to police pay and employment conditions.

Mr Mitchell's friends have accused them of pursuing a political agenda and called for root-and-branch changes to guarantee police accountability.

Eight people, including five police officers, have been arrested and bailed over the original altercation at the security gates to Downing Street amid claims that details of the incident were falsified.

The Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering charges.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 36.

    Shame that it clashes with coverage of Prince George's christening...

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 35.

    This needs to go to the CPS before it goes to a Select Committee.

    Given this appears to be 'an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual'; surely this is a form of 'fraud' and as such a Select Committee appearance may prejudice any CPS consideration to prosecute?

    On a wider note wouldn't it also bring into question any convictions involving these officers?

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 34.

    What a waste of time. Let the police deal with it internally. You would think with the serious problems facing the country they (MP's) would be directing their efforts to resolving those issues rather than wasting time on this nonsense

  • rate this
    +41

    Comment number 33.

    In my days in the police - 1960's - these guys would have been rightly sacked on the spot....law enforcement only works when there is a trust between the public and the police. It seems now that everyone - from Chief Constables to the lowest probationer - is on the take and the make and can lie with ease. Dismiss them and take their pensions away as well, that might have an impact.

  • rate this
    +74

    Comment number 32.

    I know who I believe.

    1. Police make up eye-witness account from so-called member of public
    2. Police Federation members meet Mitchell and then lie about meeting
    3. IPCC finds that Chief Constables originally recommended disciplining officers concerned
    4. Chief Constables alter their recommendation
    5. IPCC highlights an issue of honesty and integrity with the officers

    Need any more???

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 31.

    The police at all levels have been found to be corrupt and bias, well never!!! As a ex coal miner and thorough bred working man I am in absolute shock at the news.................................NOT

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 29.

    Would I trust a police officer, probably.
    Would I trust an MP, unlikey.
    Would I trust a minister especially one with their neck on block, definitely not.

    The fact is he remonstrated with a police officer doing their duty something a minister would condemn us all for if we did so.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 28.

    I agree with the PC being accountable, but Mr Mitchell is no angle either. Seeking retribution from the MP in puplic is to me showing that they are no better.
    This is money wasted by the Goverment on a course of redress. I always been told praise in public, critise in private, to get the best from anyone.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 27.

    probably just as well that the Select Committee proceedings will be recorded

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 26.

    I dont think Mitchell unequivocally denied what he was alleged to have called the officers at the time of the event. That was part of the problem. We would not be discussing this now had slippery Cameron not panicked & had backed his chief whip. A cabinet member calling someone a 'pleb' (if he did) warrants a sharp ticking off - not a humiliating departure. This event tells you more about the PM.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 25.

    If he didn't deserve to go because of this you can guarantee there will be some other skeleton in his closet that he would have been fired for. Good riddance to the man.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    It would be nice to know the truth on this one but I suppose we never will?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    Who would I trust, Police Officer or Politician ?. Hmmmm.

    We still wait for action to be taken against politicians who launched the war against Iraq having put a massive twist on obviously dodgy evidence killing vast numbers of people, but federation officials need disciplining for taking on a politician at his own game ? Hmmmmm.

    Silly storm in a teacup.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 22.

    perhaps he did not say plebs but he did swear at them if I or you swore at a policeman we would be coushand

  • rate this
    +52

    Comment number 21.

    Whether Mitchell called the police officer Pleb is a matter to be investigated, and if true he should be strongly disciplined.

    But, when police deliberately lie then all trust in them / credibility is lost and they should be disciplined / sacked.

    Even more worrying is that the senior management don't appear to think that lying by Officers is a disciplinary offence.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 20.

    This will be on TV I hope?

    I'm intrigued as to how they're going to try and wriggle out of this.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 19.

    This is not one sides word against another there is objective evidence tape which the Fed staff lied about and a police fed rep claiming on email to have witnessed events in London when he was in the west midlands. the video that shows there was NO witnesses outside Downing street its all on the record the police officers should face a trial thats the only way to resolve this

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 18.

    Could be a most amusing slanging match:
    "You lying pigs"
    "Us, pigs? You were the ones with your snouts in the trough"

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 17.

    He admits to swearing at the police officers, does it really matter what he said? He lost his job because he desreved to.

 

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