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Plebgate: ‘Honesty’ of police officers questioned

Andrew Mitchell is waiting for officers to be held to account. Picture: Getty

Andrew Mitchell is waiting for officers to be held to account. Picture: Getty

  • by ANGUS HOWARTH
 

A POLICE chief whose force spared three officers from misconduct hearings over claims they tried to discredit former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell is to be summoned before MPs to explain the controversial decision.

Inspector Ken MacKaill, detective sergeant Stuart Hinton and sergeant Chris Jones were accused of lying about what Mr Mitchell said in a meeting at his Sutton Coldfield constituency office held nearly a month after the so-called “plebgate” row erupted.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) questioned the “honesty and integrity” of the Police Federation representatives as it concluded they should have faced a misconduct panel – but the police watchdog added it was powerless to enforce such proceedings.

As Mr Mitchell garnered cross-party support from both the current and a former home secretary, an influential Commons committee said David Shaw, chief constable of West Mercia Police, which decided the officers should not face misconduct hearings, would be called next week.

In a statement released after the IPCC published its findings, Mr Mitchell said he and his family had “waited in vain” for Mr MacKaill, Mr Hinton and Mr Jones to be held to account.

“It is a matter of deep concern that the police forces employing these officers have concluded that their conduct has not brought the police service into disrepute,” he said.

“Most people will disagree. It is a decision which will undermine confidence in the ability of the police to investigate misconduct when the reputation of the police service as a whole is at stake.

“My family and I have waited nearly a year for these police officers to be held to account and for an apology from the Police forces involved. It seems we have waited in vain.”

The original incident, in which Mr Mitchell was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street “plebs” as he cycled through the main gates on September 19 last year, was the subject of a separate Metropolitan Police investigation following claims officers conspired against the politician.

Mr Mitchell met Mr MacKaill, Mr Hinton and Mr Jones, federation representatives of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands respectively, on October 12 to “clear the air”.

A transcript shows Mr Mitchell apologised for swearing at the police officers but denied using the word “plebs”.

In comments made after the meeting, Mr MacKaill claimed the former Tory chief whip would not provide an account of the incident.

West Mercia Police conducted an internal investigation into claims the three officers were trying to discredit Mr Mitchell but concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.

However, IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said she disagreed with their findings and added that the evidence reveals “an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naive or poor professional judgment” among the federation representatives.

 

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