The three police officers at the centre of the so-called ‘plebgate’ investigation repeatedly denied they did anything wrong during a Commons home affairs committee on Wednesday.
Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell stepped down from his post last year after he was accused of calling police officers ‘fucking plebs’ as he left Downing Street. A national furore quickly ensued accompanied by bewailment about how that’s what the Tories really think of us etc. until the officers’ accounts were called into question.
Three Police Federation officers, DS Stuart Hinton from Warwickshire Police, Sergeant Chris Jones from West Midlands Police and Inspector Ken MacKaill from West Mercia Police, subsequently met with Mitchell to discuss the Downing Street incident. Their claim that Mitchell had failed to give his side of events was disproved when a recording of the meeting came to light.
Much to the surprise and dismay of the IPCC, whose investigation surmised that the officers should face charges of gross misconduct, their report was allegedly amended to suggest that there was no case to answer. All three officers have refused to issue an apology to Mitchell and say they did not lie. For anyone wondering quite how that can possibly be, apparently the official phrase is ‘unintentionally misled’ rather than ‘lie’. Committee chair Keith Vaz appeared to agree, calling their evidence ‘most unsatisfactory’.
Home secretary Theresa May is due to announce a new code of police ethics later today. The code is apparently intended to impose standards of honesty and integrity on police officers across the country. The fact that someone considers it necessary to impose honesty and integrity (which y’know, we’d
naïvely previously assumed was a requirement of the job) on police officers at all is indicative of the esteem in which the service appears to be currently held.
Vaz’s description of the whole affair as ‘a car crash’ doesn’t seem unjustified — in the wake of the committee, the Police Federation and the IPCC are criticising each other, MPs and the police are criticising each other and nearly everyone involved thinks Andrew Mitchell is owed an apology. Meanwhile, the aptly-named Operation Alice (as plebgate is officially known) has cost more than £230,000 and will most likely end in pretty much the same way.
Photo by DeadMansPit in the Londonist Flickr pool.