'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
    +3

    Comment number 536.

    Andrew Mitchell, first and foremost is a human being, was hounded and pushed out of his job. The monumental crime which took on hanging offence proportions, was swearing at a policeman. This crime was duly apologised for and accepted by the police. But lo, that was not enough. He had to suffer for something he never did, or said. His family had to suffer and he was pilloried by all and sundry.BAD.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 535.

    Time to have a serious clampdown on the police,it's long been accepted behaviour by them to tell lies in order to gain convictions,those that are caught should face long sentences,lets make an example of those in this case to deter such behaviour in the future.Very few people I know trust or respect the police

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 534.

    I think the point is if the Police get away with lying about an MP they can get away with lying about anyone with far more serious consequences then someone having to resign their position!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 533.

    518.gsca67
    ... there is NO requirement for an officer to warn you for swearing before either giving you a fixed penalty or arresting you for an offence under this act, which would be either Sec4 or 5.
    -----
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8599258/Swearing-at-police-not-an-offence.html

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 532.

    @479.GazingAtTheStars

    I can't disagree. However, you can say the same of the houses of parliament. They require a shock also, and their reputation is lower than that of the police.

    Something which is being grossly overlooked by many on here.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 531.

    I can' believe they have tampered with this recording.

    It keeps stalling and stopping, then fast forwarding itself.

    Thats not a normal streaming problem - its a way of stopping people hearing whats really being said.

    BBC Propoganda video jamming !!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 530.

    English police and politicians, just two of the reasons i'll be voting for independance. The Scottish Polis are much better and MSPs aren't daft enought to cheek them!

  • Comment number 529.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 528.

    i think Mr Mitchell went because Mr Cameron told him to go. Why MP's still have their platinum pensions is a wonder to me, when other public servants have to lose theirs. The police will lie, not all the time, but enough to make me doubt their word

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 527.

    If the police have lied they need to be dealt with.
    No-one should be above the law.
    Penalties should be harder for policemen because they have better than average knowledge of crime, the law and they should behave to a higher standard than Joe Public.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 526.

    How a single insult can cause such a furore is beyond my comprehension.
    I don't care who said what to who. This is so trivial,that I cant believe that these people are supposed to be responsible adults but are behaving like children.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 525.

    Exactly what 'lie' was supposed to have been told by the federation officer ?
    I read the full online transcript of that meeting with Mitchell and I listened to the comments then made to the media. Can't see what the fuss is about.
    AM stuck to his 'No Pleb' script and that's what was reported.
    Isn't this all just a manufactured crisis - After all it was Mitchell's bad behaviour that started this.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 524.

    Looking very much like an intended collision course with the government (whoever) - not a pretty sight and outside their remit.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 523.

    I see the shills are out again. Mitchell want his job back by any chance?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 522.

    First you have to have some integrity in order to damage it.

    For me, this whole incident just confirms the total inequality in our greed-based society. This is clearly a one-off incident because the upper-class elite are usually protected by the police more than anyone. The inequality comes from the massive response we've seen from just ONE negative incident involving the upper-class and the cops

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 521.

    @510.MMansfield

    Its been ongoing for almost a year.

    its called being informed, using a human activity called "reading", with a little effort it can be extended to "researching" or "memory". you should try it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 520.

    since when telling a lie and conspiracy to destroy a persons integraty is a misjudgement it goes to the very heart of policing we have to believe what they tell us or we will have a police state with no accountability people on here who think its okay because he is a tory would not like a judgement against them based on a lie by a policeman so why should anyone else put up with it

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 519.

    Without swearing at police; but, letting out an oath against vandals a policewoman shouted at me 'Don't you swear'. Now; if, I were to see one floundering in the harbour I feel they can breath water. We don't need a Language Police in this country; yet that is what we have. If a duty policeman had been called a pleb he should have regarded it as frustration and ignored the MP's comment.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 518.

    440 Damian

    Get your facts right under the public order act there is NO requirement for an officer to warn you for swearing before either giving you a fixed penalty or arresting you for an offence under this act, which would be either Sec4 or 5.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 517.

    This is not a party political issue. If police officers have fabricated evidence to bring down a govt minister, this should be of grave concern to all irrespective of political bias. If other officers have deliberately misrepresented what was said in a meeting, to bring down a govt minister, this is of grave concern. It has reduced by 26% the number of people who trust the police.

 

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