'Plebgate' affair: Police Federation launches legal action

Chris Jones, Stuart Hinton and Ken MacKaill (L-R) leaving the constituency office of Andrew Mitchell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The IPCC investigation into Chris Jones, Stuart Hinton and Ken MacKaill is "unlawful", the Police Federation says

The Police Federation says it wants a judicial review of the police watchdog's decision to investigate three officers who met the MP at the centre of the "plebgate" row.

The men are accused of giving a false account of the meeting with Andrew Mitchell, amid a row over whether he called Downing St police "plebs".

But their account was questioned when a recording of the meeting was released.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had acted lawfully.

The Police Federation, which represents police officers in England and Wales up to the rank of inspector, announced on Sunday it was launching judicial proceedings against the IPCC.

It argues the IPCC's decision to reinvestigate the officers is "unlawful".

Accounts contradicted

After the "plebgate" incident at Downing Street in September 2012, then-Chief Whip Mr Mitchell apologised for using bad language but denied using the word pleb. He later resigned as chief whip as the row continued.

A month later, Mr Mitchell held a meeting in his Sutton Coldfield constituency with Det Sgt Stuart Hinton, Insp Ken MacKaill and Sgt Chris Jones from the federation in an attempt to smooth things over.

After the meeting the men, who represent officers in Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands respectively, briefed the media.

A transcript of a recording Mr Mitchell made of the meeting apparently contradicted the officers' account of what was said.

Ch Insp Jerry Reakes-Williams, head of professional standards at Warwickshire and West Mercia Police, carried out an investigation and took the view they had a case to answer for misconduct, but their senior officers disagreed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Andrew Mitchell resigned as chief whip following his meeting with three police officers

It concluded there was no case to answer.

In November 2013, IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass criticised that decision and announced the watchdog would launch its own investigation.

On Sunday, the Police Federation said the initial investigation into the conduct of the three officers "was supervised by the IPCC and found there was no evidence of misconduct - this was supported by their respective chief constables".

"The IPCC deputy chair then criticised the outcome of the investigation, stated that the three officers should have faced misconduct charges and announced they would fully reinvestigate the matter," a spokesperson said.

"This was despite the IPCC previously acknowledging that it could not take this course of action."

PC's admission

The spokesperson said it was "only right and proper that police officers face investigation where they are suspected of wrongdoing".

"At the same time, police officers are entitled to understand the process that will hold them to account for their actions as with any disciplinary proceedings and to accept the outcome in good faith.

"We believe that the IPCC's actions are unlawful.

"In the interest of fairness, the system should be changed if it is judged not to be working, rather than move the goal posts after the event. This is now for the High Court to determine. "

An IPCC spokeswoman said: "Our position is that our investigation is lawful and it remains ongoing."

She said all that remained to complete the investigation into the three officers was for them to be interviewed, which was scheduled for later this month.

On Friday, PC Keith Wallis, 53, admitting falsely claiming to have witnessed the row between Mr Mitchell and police in September 2012 and said he would offer to resign.

PC Wallis had sent an email to his local MP John Randall, then-Conservative deputy chief whip, wrongly stating he had witnessed the row.

PC Wallis has been bailed for sentencing on 6 February pending psychiatric reports.

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