The police watchdog has questioned the “honesty and integrity” of three officers who were spared misconduct hearings over claims they tried to discredit former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
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) concluded the Police Federation representatives should face a misconduct panel - but added it was powerless to enforce such proceedings as Mr Mitchell has not made a formal complaint.
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.
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, federation representatives of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands respectively, 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.”
Mr Mitchell met Mr MacKaill, Mr Hinton and Mr Jones, 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 and concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
But IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said the evidence reveals “an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naive or poor professional judgment” among the federation representatives.
She said: “In the media and political climate of the day, I do not consider that the officers could have been in any doubt about the impact of their public statements on the pressure being brought on Mr Mitchell.
“As police officers, they had a responsibility to present a fair and accurate picture.
“Their motive seems plain: they were running a successful, high-profile, anti-cuts campaign and the account that he provided to them did not fit with their agenda.”
Ms Glass said the federation representatives must have known Mr Mitchell was under pressure to resign his post as chief whip following scenes at the Conservative Party conference at which Federation members were seen wearing “PC Pleb” T-shirts.
She said: “It was clear that the parties had very different agendas for the meeting.
“Mr Mitchell saw it as an attempt to clear the air, while the officers focused on Mr Mitchell’s ‘version of events’ - that is what happened in the Downing Street incident on September 19 when Mr Mitchell was alleged to have called police officers ‘f****** plebs’.”
Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “The report of the IPCC into the Andrew Mitchell affairs and the fact that they have disagreed with the investigation of the West Midlands Police, which cleared senior members of the Police Federation is extremely serious.
“This is yet another twist in this long running saga. It is clear that the officers concerned should face disciplinary proceedings.”
A statement from Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands Police said the IPCC chose not to exercise powers that would have allowed it to order the three forces to hold misconduct proceedings
It said: “Despite a thorough investigation under the supervision of the IPCC, we do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to support the view that the officers concerned should face misconduct proceedings.
“Our view is that the officers have demonstrated poor judgment in arranging and attending the meeting in the first place.
“In light of this, our position is that management action is a proportionate response.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is considering whether or not to bring criminal charges following Scotland Yard’s £230,000-plus investigation, known as Operation Alice
Eight people including five police officers arrested under Operation Alice were re-bailed.
The five constables are from the Diplomatic Protection Group, which is responsible for guarding politicians and foreign dignitaries, and includes a 46-year-old woman present when the row broke out.
Two of the officers - the woman and a man who is also 46 - were arrested over alleged leaks to the media about what happened.
The members of police staff are two women aged 46 and 49 who were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, and a 23-year-old man who was held in December.
The police force came under fire for its handling of the inquiry, with ex-director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald and former Home Secretary Jack Straw among senior figures who criticised the length of time and cost of the inquiry.