UK Politics

'Plebgate': Met chief 'open-minded' over police conduct in Andrew Mitchell affair

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Media captionSir Bernard Hogan-Howe: "It's a regret if anything I've said... has led anybody to conclude that I was anything other than open-minded"

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said he has an "open mind" regarding the conduct of officers in the Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" row.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said it had "yet to be proven" whether a police log of an argument between the ex-chief whip and officers outside No 10 was true.

If officers were found to have lied or made up evidence, it would be "very serious", he told MPs.

Mr Mitchell resigned over the row but denies calling officers "plebs".

He was alleged to have used the word during an altercation with police from the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) outside Downing Street in September, when they 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 were incorrect.

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

'Lack of instinct'

A constable from the DPG, who was not on duty at the time, was arrested last month on suspicion of misconduct in a public office. The officer's claim, made to his local MP, that he independently witnessed the row is being investigated.

Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sir Bernard said he was "sorry" if comments he made last year had given the impression he had a fixed view about the incident.

He admitted he had not seen the police log of the incident when he gave a BBC radio interview on 21 November in which he backed the officers involved and had merely seen a report about what the officers had seen.

He also said he should have taken more care with his answers in an interview with LBC several weeks later in which he again backed the officers' account.

But Labour MP Keith Vaz accused the commissioner of showing a lack of "basic policing instinct" over his handling of the affair and said he "seemed to have no regret for anything that has happened".

The commissioner said Scotland Yard's inquiry had still not determined who had leaked the story to the papers, nor whether a police log of the incident which appeared in the Daily Telegraph was genuine.

He also disclosed that he had asked another police force to independently review the Met's investigation into the affair.

Sir Bernard said he had checked at various times during the inquiry with "various people" whether they were content for the Met to carry out the investigation and they were.

In response to questions about the Metropolitan Federation's call for Mr Mitchell to resign, he said it was not for police officers or for the Police Federation - which represents most officers - to demand the resignation of a member of the government,

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