'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
    +29

    Comment number 76.

    I think the most shocking aspect of this story is how unsurprising it is - i wasn't the least bit surprised that officers colluded to protect their own and besmirch the name of an innocent man. Had Mitchell not recorded this we would all be none the wiser. I wonder how many people up and down the country suffer as a consequence of not being able to disprove the police.

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 75.

    Typically, he wants his snout back in the free money trough. Dodgy politicians make me sick. I will NEVER VOTE AGAIN.
    3 parties all of the same policies. No difference, not even in the dodgy corrupt stakes. Before anyone winges I dont care about politics any more. It is all corporates and banks putting their stooges into parties. The Police should make mass arrests of all MPs

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 74.

    this will end up in yet another smoke n mirrors fudge.

    No justice, no investigation, and no disciplinary process.

    I doubt the Downing St police officers will be prosecuted either.

    Confidence in public servants reduced yet further.

    Very, very sad

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 73.

    Police lies brought down a decent man. Now the liars should be brought down - no 'early retirement' on fat pensions, just sacked for gross misconduct.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 72.

    "Police officers face MPs over Mitchell meeting"

    The only person these police officers should be facing is the new claims adviser in their local job centre.

    (that said, you can only claim pension credits, for 3 months, if you were dismissed from your previous employment! phaa!)

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 71.

    the police think they are unaccountable and behave accordingly. i simply wouldn't trust them to tell the truth if it doesn't suit their purposes. i have heard the head of the police federation on the today programme and i wouldn't buy a second hand car from him. they are a disgrace and they have let the public down badly- they are just kicking themselves that they have been caught out at it

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 70.

    This has been going on for a year, which is outrageous.

    I think a mass sacking is in order.

    Kick off with the Chief Constables.

    Do it on TV.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 68.

    What a ridiculous waste of public money. I couldn't care less whether the word "pleb" was used or not.
    Mitchell does not deny that he swore at the police. If you or I did that, we would be prosecuted...but no doubt Mitchell will be "rewarded" with a juicy cabinet post soon.
    It's one rule for MPs, and another for the rest of us...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    I have reservations about the home secretary's comments, but we should surely be looking closely at the influence of both the Federation and ACPO in the maintenance of police standards and policing policy.
    They are employees' associations, after all.
    Further, the glacier like slowness of with which this issue has been handled is unfair to all concerned.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 66.

    The ONLY questions the MP's should be asking is:-
    1. Why are the three Police Federation reps still in Police employment, one at least is a proven liar.... and
    2. Why has the totally incompentent Chief Constable also still in Police employment, he appears to favour the liars over the IPCC.
    Why are these clowns still allowed to investigate themselves, they cannot be trusted anymore.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    The worst part of this is the police leaders apparently ignoring the IPPC. They should not be allowed to get away with this so its right that they are up infront of the MPs. Otherwise I've got rather fed up with this case!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 64.

    Well, firstly not ALL police Officers are members of the Federation - and when I left 18 months ago the subs were pretty steep, so it's no wonder! The subs fund the lush conferences, the hotel & travel for the Fed Reps - and possibly their Masonic subscriptions and donations too! (oops - sorry, prepare to have my tongue ripped out by the roots!) The Fed is a toothless tiger, no more, no less.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    Wasn't it around the time of this debacle that all the Hillsborough lies were being exposed? Wasn't it also around this time that the News of the World phone hacking scandal was being exposed?

    What were the Police involved thinking? Immunity/Impunity? Now they have been exposed and should suffer accordingly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    Amazing! two coppers ALLEGEDLY tell porkies and the media has a field day! MPs lie, distort the truth & mislead the public on an almost daily basis, and no-one bats an eyelid! What has become of honesty and integrity?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    Why is all this taking so long to resolve? Surely, by now, it has been established whether or not Mitchell used the word pleb. If he didn't, and the police are bending the truth, then take appropriate action. Then move on.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 60.

    .

    From what I can see the police officers told the truth, Mitchell refused to elaborate, he just carried on saying he didn’t call the police officers “Plebs”

    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    Another day - another Westminster inquiry into people telling porkies.

    Police, MPs inc ex Prime Ministers, top NHS managers etc etc

    Must be a pre-requisite ability for a top job in the public sector ;-)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 58.

    You'd have through that plod would have come up with a better word then "pleb". I mean, if you are going to attempt to get an MP sacked, cover it all and then refuse even to admit you were in the wrong, then at least make something up with a little more impact. "Pleb" ? You might as well said "he called me a big girl" before they burst into tears went telling tales(mad up ones) to teacher.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 57.

    Since there was actually a real gate involved, shouldn't it be called "Plebgategate"?

 

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