UK Politics

Mitchell 'plebgate' row: 800 officers reportedly asked for statements

The then-chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, in Downing Street
Image caption There have been calls for former Chief Whip Mr Mitchell to be reinstated

As many as 800 Met Police officers have reportedly been asked for statements in connection with the investigation into the Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" row.

Nearly all members of the Diplomatic Protection Group have been contacted, the Met's Police Federation claimed.

Its chair John Tully said this was "over-zealous" and it was "pointless" to ask officers not on duty outside No 10 at the time of the altercation.

The Met said its probe into police conduct over the case was "thorough".

Mr Mitchell allegedly called officers "plebs" during an altercation outside Downing Street in September when police from the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) asked him to use the pedestrian gate rather than the main gate.

The former chief whip, who resigned from the cabinet five weeks later, has always maintained that he "did not use the words attributed" to him and insisted references to them in the police logbook of the incident are incorrect.

The Met have assigned 30 officers to investigate how details of police records of the altercation ended up being published by two national newspapers.

A police constable from the DPG, who was not on duty at the time, was arrested last month on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.

'Waste of energy'

The Independent Police Complaints Commission are investigating the officer's claim, made to his local MP, that he independently witnessed the row outside Downing Street.

Channel 4 News has accused the officer of falsely claiming to have seen the events after CCTV footage cast doubt on the original police accounts of the row.

No 10 has said these claims are "extremely serious" and must be properly investigated while there have been calls for Mr Mitchell to be reinstated.

A second man, who is not a member of police staff, has also been arrested.

The Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has rejected suggestions it could have been part of a "conspiracy" to unseat Mr Mitchell and insisted that it welcomes the investigation into the incident.

The Mirror reported on Friday that 800 officers from the Group had been asked to give details of whether they were on or off duty at the time of the altercation.

Although he was unable to confirm the exact number, Mr Tully said the 800 figure was "in the ballpark".

But he said reports that such statements could take hours to draft and process were wrong and that, if handled efficiently, could take as little as 10 minutes.

'Open mind'

Mr Tully said he could be proved wrong and the trawl of statements could throw up something which "solved the whole case".

But he added: "It seems pointless to ask upwards of 800 people, the great majority of whom were not anywhere near the place when the incident took place, to write about it.

"It seems like a waste of energy."

Scotland Yard said it would not comment on how many people it was speaking to.

But a spokesman said: "The allegations in relation to this matter are extremely serious and it is therefore vital that a thorough and proportionate investigation is carried out.

"The investigation continues to be progressed with urgency, determination and an open mind."

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