'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 56.

    Don't forget that all police officers are from the same mould and all are members of the Police Federation. Corruption is rife and such instances must not be investigated by other forces.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    Every country should have a replicate faculty (i.e., 2 police forces, 2 fire services). It would actually save money to get things right and avoid costly reviews.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 54.

    The incredible thing about the transcript is how much importance the police attendees attached to the trust in police telling the truth and that AM's claims were undermining it by persisting with an account that conflicted with the police account. And then they went out and lied to the media. You couldn't make the sheer hypocrisy of it up!

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 53.

    To (37)
    I wish I could believe that the police only lie to support a political agenda. Unfortunately they'll do this for anyone who fails to show them the deference they think they deserve.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 52.

    Politicians lie, unfortunately it's almost part of their job! But the Police? As an ex Police Officer, forced to resign by a currupt "Proffesional Standards" department and false statements by senior officers, I can tell you, the Police DO LIE, and I hope those Federation Officials (paid for by our taxes) are forced to resign, as they sought to force Mitchel's resignation. And yes, I am bitter!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    John Wayne wouldn't tell tales. Put Rooster Cogburn in charge of policing.
    I'm not interested in hearing the politics of police constables, or any other public servants. Just do your job. You can talk politics down the boozer all you like - if you want to bore your friends. We all get a vote - use it.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 50.

    The plebgate fiasco is symptomatic of a broader problem - the politicisation of unelected bodies.

    The police are now trying to be our masters rather than our servants, just like the BMA have gone from helping to keep us alive to dictating how our lives are lived.

    We elect elect politicians to run our lives, we employ everyone else to do as they're told, not the other way around

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 49.

    After all the deaths at police hands, cover-ups, blatant law-breaking etc across the years it is amazing that the police are finally being brought to book by MPs - but only because they lied about one of them. Maybe if they should have concentrated on the declining standards a lot earlier and in more important situations I would actually care.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 48.

    I know what Mitchell didn't say, but not what he did say as he declines to say what he said. Bizarre.
    Either way to pick an unnecessary argument with plod shows poor, poor, judgement....
    ....but I'm sure he will be totally rehabilitated and moved back into Government at the first opportunity.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 47.

    Needs dropping this is just a distraction for more serious problems, I mean who really cares ??

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    Will it be shown on Democracy Live, Mr Halls visit to mp's yesterday wasn't, so this probably won't, will it?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 45.

    Did the police officers involved in this deception take advice from those involved in the Hillsborough I wonder ?

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 44.

    34. David
    "What a waste of time, Let the police deal with it internally, stopwasting time on this nonsense"

    How is police corruption nonsense..? The police seem incabable of dealing with it internally.. I think is called a conflict of interest...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    The individual police officers I have dealt with on occasions (as a member of the public) have been fine. Problems always start the further up the greasy pole of promotion you go, with its associated politics, insane financial ramifications and egos.

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 41.

    Mitchell admitted that he swore at the police. What would happen if you or I did the same?

  • rate this
    -20

    Comment number 40.

    I think it is Very Sad that they do not focus more on running the country and getting it back on its feet

    Than drawing our attention back to something that has faded from our memories!

    #wasteof publicmoneyagain

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 39.

    When police conduct is called into question then any evidence should be given to a panel of judges who decide if a crime has been committed - if so then the CPS must prosecute - the present system of allowing the police themselves to decide if they have committed a crime or going to the IPCC who are often not in a position to do anything is quite clearly going to be open to abuse...

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 38.

    Police being interviewed by politicians about lying, an old saying springs to mind takes one to know one!

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 37.

    What's more worrying is the underlying influence Unions & their political agendas are having within the public sector. These 3 police officers are Police Federation activists & clearly had an agenda to discredit a Tory politician. Unions should have no political alliances as they can't be trusted to be impartial as political ideologies take priority over their members welfare, e.g. Grangemouth

 

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