Row over latest 'plebgate' leak

Andrew Mitchell The plebgate incident happened when then cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell was stopped from cycling through Downing Street's main gates

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A close ally of MP Andrew Mitchell has dismissed suggestions a leaked police email strengthens the case against him in the continuing "plebgate" saga.

The email shows officers had asked for advice on how to deal with the then chief whip's repeated demands to cycle through the Downing Street gates.

The Times says it was sent the night before his altercation with officers.

The paper says it "points the finger" at Mr Mitchell, but fellow Tory MP David Davis said the opposite was true.

Mr Davis, who has been acting as an unofficial spokesman for Mr Mitchell, said the email had been written to set up the circumstances that would lead to a confrontation with Mr Mitchell.

'Incredibly spun'

Mr Mitchell has admitted swearing in front of police when they stopped him from cycling through the main gates at Downing Street but denies calling them "plebs" - the derogatory epithet that led to a Police Federation campaign and the minister's eventual downfall.

The email, obtained by the Times, was written by a constable seeking advice from his superiors on how to handle Mr Mitchell's demands.

The officer was said to have complained that Mr Mitchell "keeps requesting to leave Downing Street via the main vehicle gates" and was "adamant he was going through those gates".

It was written on 19 September, the night before the plebgate incident, and suggests that Mr Mitchell had had previous disagreements with officers over the issue.

Mr Davis told MPs the email had been written four hours after another incident involving Mr Mitchell which, he said, showed it had been designed to set up a future public confrontation.

He said the email "undermines the police case" and backed up claims made by an anonymous whistle-blower the dispute had been premeditated.

The former shadow home secretary also complained about the "incredibly spun" way in which a confidential police email had been passed to the media and he said he had asked Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe for a full inquiry into the leak.

'Disgraceful'

The Metropolitan Police said they would review the Times article, as part of Operation Alice, "to ascertain what if any offences may have been committed".

Operation Alice is an investigation into misconduct by police as well as the unauthorised leaking of information to newspapers about the plebgate incident.

Mr Davis was taking part in a Commons debate on the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.

Mr Mitchell was sitting in the Commons listening to the debate, although he did not make a speech.

Conservative MP Michael Ellis, a barrister in criminal law for 15 years, said public trust in police was at its lowest ever level, adding: "And in large measure it is due to the disgraceful misconduct of the leadership and previous leadership within the national Police Federation."

The federation has come in for criticism over the way in which it used the plebgate row to further its campaign against police cuts.

Last month, Police Federation chairman Steve Williams apologised to Mr Mitchell for the actions of an officer who had admitted to lying over his involvement in the plebgate saga.

The officer, PC Keith Wallis, was last week sentenced to 12 months in prison.

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