Andrew Mitchell reveals frustration with No. 10
In December 2012 Channel 4 Dispatches revealed the CCTV footage of the 'plebgate' incident that cast serious doubt on the police's version of events and exposed that an email sent by a member of the public claiming to be an eye-witness was a fake and was in fact sent by a serving police officer of the Diplomatic Protection Group who wasn't in Downing Street at the time.
Since then the highest ranking police officer and the most powerful civil servant in the country have been called before Parliament to account for their failure to discover what really happened and who was responsible.
In a Channel 4 Dispatches programme airing tonight (Monday 4th February at 8pm) Andrew Mitchell gives his first broadcast interview since our 'plebgate' revelations emerged and reveals fresh evidence of information known by key individuals at the time.
· For the first time, Andrew Mitchell speaks about his frustration at Number 10 Downing Street's handling of the affair and reveals they stalled him taking possession of the CCTV footage of the event
· The fact that a first note of the incident didn't mention plebs, but three hours later a note from No 10 Downing Street did
· The role of John Tully, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, in 'plebgate' and his admission he had doubts about vital evidence
· Letter by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police revealing that their investigation into 'plebgate' had ended just days before Channel 4 Dispatches released the CCTV footage
· When the 'plebgate' story broke it provoked a torrent of emails to Andrew Mitchell's office, including a number from retired and serving police officers.
Frustration of No 10 Downing Street
On 19th September last year there was an incident in Downing Street between the Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and four police officers - it became headline news.
The police said Andrew Mitchell had called the officers 'f***ing plebs'. He has always denied it. After 28 days of being attacked by the media and the Police Federation, Mitchell resigned.
In tonight's Channel 4 Dispatches Mitchell says: "I could tell I was being stitched up but I didn't know how it was being done or where it was coming from."
We now know there was evidence that could have cleared him at that time.
The initial Downing Street inquiry had thrown up contradictions between two accounts of what happened and the CCTV pictures.
Sir Jeremy Heywood later said to MPs: "I think we accepted that there were unanswered questions, including the possibility of a gigantic conspiracy, or a small conspiracy; there's unanswered questions; but we decided on balance to let matters rest as they were."
Only after stepping down did Mitchell ask to see the closed circuit footage.
Until then he'd followed Number 10's strategy of saying sorry for swearing, keeping quiet, and hoping things would die down.
"I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. they really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up", says Mitchell.
Freed from office, Mitchell decided to delve further, asking to see the CCTV - but then he met resistance from the top, as he explains in an interview with Channel 4 reporter Michael Crick:
Michael Crick (MC):"You agree with Jeremy Heywood that you asked to see it on the day you resigned, the 19th October? He says it was given to you shortly afterward
Andrew Mitchell (AM): "I was able to see it short....some time afterwards."
MC: "Three weeks afterwards nearly."
MC: "And you didn't actually have it in your hands for six or seven weeks afterwards?"
AM: "It was quite a frustrating experience."
Yet Jeremy Heywood had long known a vital email sent from an alleged witness living in Ruislip couldn't be trusted. So why didn't he say so publically?
David Davis says: "The job of the Cabinet Secretary,at least in parts is to protect the Prime Minister to look after the interest of the Prime Minister, and I suspect he was focussing on that rather than justice and truth if you like."
It wasn't until almost three weeks after his request that Mitchell and his team were shown the CCTV.
Mitchell says: "Our reaction was one of horror, because it did not show what the log purported that it did show. We were absolutely horrified."
"Firstly it's a sequence of 63 seconds. There's no sign of any of the aggressive behaviour that you would associate with the log. Of course you can't hear anything, but there's no evidence of. of dialogue. Had I used those phrases you would expect some reaction from the policeman who is going in front of me. And thirdly there's references in the log and in the email to there being a crowd of horrified onlookers outside the gate....
However, when Mitchell asked for a copy of the CCTV, hoping it might clear his name, the Cabinet Office tried to stop him taking possession claiming it was because of national security.
Mitchell says: "I do not think the arguments about national security were genuine, no."
"I think it's fair to say that Jeremy Heywood was concerned about national security issues in releasing the CCTV"
And when asked by our reporter if he thinks that argument is bogus, Mitchell says: "I do not think that the release of the CCTV affects national security."
It took another month, and only once Mitchell had established his legal right to have it, that the Cabinet Office handed over a DVD.
Andrew Mitchell believes he might still be in Government had Number 10 released the CCTV at the time Heywood did his enquiry on 27th September.
Mitchell says: "Well I think that, had the CCTV been released earlier, together with the email, I think that it would have been discovered quite early on that something was quite seriously wrong with this and I suppose, had that happened, I might still be in Government today."
CCTV Footage Is Release To The Media
Shortly after this point Channel 4 Dispatches enters the Mitchell story and revealed the CCTV footage of the 'plebgate' incident that cast serious doubt on the police's version of events.
By Saturday 15th December, a police officer from the Diplomatic Protection Group, the body whose duties include protects Downing Street, was arrested.
And the Metropolitan Police launched a new beefed-up investigation into the whole affair, involving 30 officers and code-named Operation Alice.
Last week they arrested two more serving police constables under suspicion of leaking material to the Press - one of them a policewoman who'd actually been working in Downing Street on the night of the incident with Andrew Mitchell.
Four other members of the Diplomatic Protection Group have received what are called regulation 15 notices, telling them they're being investigated for possible misconduct. Three of them have been put on restricted duties.
Letter Reveal Met Police 'Plebgate' Investigation Had 'Concluded'
Tonight's programme reveals that just days before Channel 4 Dispatches released the CCTV Footage a letter sent by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to David Davis MP, stating that it was "not possible" to get to the bottom of the 'plebgate' row and that the matter "had been concluded."
The letter states:
"The Metropolitan Police have looked into how police accounts of the incident at the Downing Street Gates on 19 September became reported
The upshot is that it is not possible to say how these accounts found their way into the media.
There is no live criminal or misconduct investigation into this matter. As far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned this matter has been concluded."
Change To Number 10's Press Notes
Channel 4 Dispatches understands a first short note on the incident drawn up by Number 10, didn't say Mitchell uttered the infamous word 'plebs' - but that story soon changed.
Number 10 has confirmed to Andrew Mitchell that at 10.32pm, three hours after the event, a lengthier note was circulated from Downing Street press officers and it did contain the word 'pleb'.
In response Mitchell says: "I understand that two of the three poisonous phrases are in it, but whether there were two or three or one, whether it was done within one minute or an hour or three hours of the incident at the gate, it is wholly and totally untrue."
"Well I did not swear at a policeman, what I did was to say in frustration as I turned away from the main gates - look I thought you guys [the police] were supposed to f.ing help us. That was a comment on the situation. but it's not swearing at a policeman. but it was bad language and I apologised for that and my apology was accepted."
Met Police Federation Chairman Has Doubts About Evidence
Andrew Mitchell's situation got much worse - when the Police Federation got their teeth into the story. The Federation was in dispute with the government about proposed cuts to the service - so for them the 'plebgate' story was a gift.
Channel 4 Dispatches have discovered that The Sun got the 'plebgate' story from a copy of what purported to be a police document and that they had passed that on to the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, John Tully, for verification.
,Mr Tully tells the programme he had had some reservations about the document's veracity.
"I couldn't confirm the veracity of it because I didn't know who it had come from and if it had been constructed by anyone", he says.
The Sun had published the story - but not the document. The Telegraph did publish the document and identified it as a police log.
"Well the concern I have, my concern is that it has always been called a police log and it is nothing like a police log.", says John Tully.
Tully also expressed concerns about how The Sun got hold of confidential information but never reported it to the Metropolitan Police.
"I can't remember my exact conversation with The Sun but I was concerned that if it had been an original document - how they had come about it was a worry to me yes.", says Tully.
When asked if he reported it, Tully says: "No - Not to the Met police."
Dispatches Plebs, Lies & Videotape - Channel 4 Dispatches, Monday 4th February at 8pm