The “plebgate” row showed no signs of abating yesterday as the Prime Minister insisted former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell was owed an apology by police.
David Cameron’s comments came after the police watchdog accused a police force of failing to properly deal with three officers accused of lying about a meeting held with Mr Mitchell in the wake of the row last year.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) questioned the “honesty and integrity’’ of Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones and concluded the Police Federation representatives should have faced a misconduct panel.
As Mr Mitchell garnered cross-party support, members of the policing community hit out at the IPCC for acting “inappropriately”.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said the conduct of the officers, who were representing the forces of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands, was “not acceptable”.
He said Mr Mitchell was “owed an apology, the conduct of these officers was not acceptable” and “these things should be properly investigated”.
The Prime Minister backed the stance taken by Home Secretary Theresa May, who had said it was “quite wrong” not to take disciplinary proceedings against the officers.
Mr Cameron said: “I agree 100 per cent with what the Home Secretary said and I think we should be clear about what we are discussing here …
“The former chief whip had a meeting with Police Federation officers where he gave a full account of what had happened, they left that meeting and claimed he had given them no account at all.
“Fortunately, this meeting was recorded, so he has been able to prove that what he said was true and what the police officers said was untrue.”
The original incident, in which Mr Mitchell was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street “plebs” as he cycled through the main gates on 19 September last year, was the subject of a separate Metropolitan Police investigation following claims that officers conspired against the politician.
Mr Mitchell then met Insp MacKaill, Det Sgt Hinton and Sgt Jones on 12 October last year to “clear the air” after the clash.
A transcript shows Mr Mitchell apologised for swearing at the police officers but denied using the word “plebs”, while in comments made after the meeting Mr MacKaill claimed the former whip refused to 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.
IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass said she disagreed with their findings and added that the evidence revealed “an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naive or poor professional judgment” among the federation representatives.
She added: “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.”
But West Midlands police commissioner Bob Jones said Ms Glass’s comments had been “completely unjustified” and “very inappropriate”, and called for the abolition of the IPCC.
The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to bring criminal charges following Scotland Yard’s £230,000-plus investigation, Operation Alice.