Plebgate: Officer jailed for 12 months for emails

Pc Keith Wallis has been sentenced to twelve months in jail. Picture: PA
Pc Keith Wallis has been sentenced to twelve months in jail. Picture: PA
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A POLICE officer who claimed to have witnessed the Plebgate row was jailed for 12 months today for misconduct in a public office.

Pc Keith Wallis, 53, of West Drayton, west London, sent an email to his MP, Conservative deputy chief whip John Randall, wrongly claiming that he had seen what happened as Andrew Mitchell left Downing Street on September 19, 2012.

Mr Mitchell, then chief whip, had been involved in a heated confrontation with another police officer, Toby Rowland, after he was refused permission to cycle through the main gate.

Wallis, who worked at the Metropolitan Police’s diplomatic protection group, was moved to act by “rumour and gossip” about the incident in which Mr Mitchell was accused of calling the officer a “Pleb”.

Wallis, who was just one year from retirement after a 30-year career, was intoxicated and suffering from mental illness at the time of the emails, the court heard.

Two emails from Wallis to Mr Randall were read out by prosecutor Zoe Martin.

In an email of September 20, Wallis wrote: “I write to complain at the absolutely digesting (sic) behaviour displayed by your fellow member of parliament.”

Sometimes writing in capital letters and misspelling words, he claimed he and his nephew witnessed Mr Mitchell’s “unacceptable behaviour” but he “did not expect anything to come of it”.

Mr Randall did take up the complaint. An investigation got under way at Westminster and a story ran in The Sun the following day.

Political pressure on Mr Mitchell intensified and eventually led to his resignation on October 19, a month after the initial altercation.

Defending, Patrick Gibbs QC appealed for leniency for Wallis, who had admitted the offence.

He said Wallis was in no way part of a conspiracy against Mr Mitchell and there was no attempt to pervert the course of justice.

He said: “He would be the ideal scapegoat for more sophisticated men but sending him to prison would be to mistake this for what it is not.”

But Mr Justice Sweeney dismissed his plea, telling Wallis his actions not only had an impact on Mr Mitchell but also had “a significant impact on public trust and confidence in the integrity of police officers”.

In a victim impact statement Mr Mitchell described his devastation at Wallis’s false accusations which “gave traction” to the story in Downing Street.

He wrote: “The existence of the emails contributed to my acute demoralisation and sense of isolation. They were therefore a contributory factor in the events which led to my resignation.”

Shortly before his arrest in December, Wallis seemed upset at work and his sergeant suggested he take time off, the court heard.

Wallis told a member of the Police Federation about contacting his MP because he was “disgusted by the incident”, saying he had not mentioned he was a police officer.

Police investigating the incident eventually found out Wallis was a constable and he was arrested.

In an interview, Wallis told officers: “I knew I should have thrown myself under a train yesterday.”

Mr Gibbs told the court that events “got completely out of hand” and Wallis, who had been deeply affected by the death of his father, never wanted Mr Mitchell to lose his job.

After the sentencing, Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said Wallis would be the subject of a misconduct process “as soon as possible”.

He said: “I expect my officers to serve the public without fear or favour. Where officers break the law, they must expect to be held to account and answer for what they have done.

Two officers from the diplomatic protection group (DPG) have received final written warnings and a third officer has undergone management action in relation to inappropriate comments.

Wallis, along with four other officers from DPG, will be the subject of gross misconduct hearings due to start at the end of the month.