THE police officer at the centre of the notorious Downing Street “Plebgate” incident yesterday accepted £80,000 damages in settlement of his libel action against former chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
The conclusion of PC Toby Rowland’s defamation case against the Conservative MP was announced at the High Court in London.
Last November Mr Mitchell, who vehemently denied using the word “pleb”, lost a high-profile action against News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun.
A judge then declared he had reached the “firm conclusion” that Mr Mitchell had indeed used the “politically toxic” word in September 2012 when he was not allowed to cycle through the main Downing Street vehicle gates.
PC Rowland’s lawyer, Jeremy Clarke-Williams, told Mr Justice Warby that since that judgment, Mr Mitchell “has abandoned the other defences he had raised to my client’s claim and consequently terms of settlement have been agreed.”
The solicitor added: “The payment of £80,000 damages by Mr Mitchell sets the seal on PC Rowland’s vindication, as well as providing compensation for the injury to his reputation and the distress caused to him and his family over many months.”
After his failed libel case against News Group, Mr Mitchell was ordered to pay interim costs of £300,000 to the publishers and the Police Federation, which represented PC Rowland.
But the overall costs of the case have been estimated at between £1.5 million and £3m. The final amount Mr Mitchell owes will be determined by a specialist costs judge.
In January, also at the High Court in London, Mr Mitchell was ordered to make further interim payments of £15,000 to News Group and £10,000 to the federation after he failed in his application against costs.
Neither Mr Mitchell nor PC Rowland were in court yesterday, but Mr Clarke-Williams presented the background to the case.
PC Rowland “was the officer who let Andrew Mitchell MP, together with his bicycle, out of the pedestrian gate from Downing Street into Whitehall” on the evening of 19 September 2012, he explained.
“What exactly Mr Mitchell said to PC Rowland as he left Downing Street became the crux of the so-called ‘Plebgate’ controversy,” the lawyer said.
He told the judge that PC Rowland, a Metropolitan Police officer of “long standing”, was a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group whose duties include the security of Downing Street.
He added that his client “would have much preferred” that events that took place in Downing Street “had never entered the public domain,” and now wants to be “left in peace” to continue his police career.
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