18 Dec 2012

CCTV casts doubt on account of Andrew Mitchell exchange

Exclusive: Dispatches and Channel 4 News reveal CCTV footage of the exchange between Andrew Mitchell and police officers that raises questions about the account in police logs leaked to the media.

When, on 19 September, police on duty in Downing Street refused to open the gate for Andrew Mitchell to leave on his bike, he was said to have lost his temper.

According to a police log leaked to the Telegraph five days later, he told the police to “learn your f****** place”; that they didn’t “run this f****** government”, and perhaps most damaging, that they were “f****** plebs”.

Toxic phrases

Andrew Mitchell told Political Correspondent Michael Crick: “I got a call from Downing Street to say that the Sun were going to splash on an altercation with the police, and my first reaction was there’s not really much of an altercation to splash on, and it was only later that I heard these toxic phrases which had been attributed to me.”

“There were, there were three phrases above all which were hung around my neck for the following 28 days, every day in the press, which were used to destroy my political career and were used to toxify the Conservative party. They are completely untrue, I never said phrases like that at all, I would never call someone an effing pleb. Anyone who knows me well would know that it is absolutely not in me to use phrases like that.”

Asked why he did not give a more detailed account at the time, Mitchell said: “Well, when the story broke, the decision was made that I would apologise for what I did say and my apology was accepted. There was no police complaints and that we would let it lie. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, that was clearly the wrong decision.”

‘Visibly shocked’

According to the leaked police logs there were “several members of the public present – around the gate – they heard the altercation and were “visibly shocked”. What this CCTV shows is that there are no crowds of people watching and listening.

The very next day, the Deputy Chief Whip John Randall received an email from one of his constituents saying that he and his nephew had both seen and heard the incident, and his version matched the police story that later appeared in the Telegraph almost word for word.

The email was sent from Ruislip, in north west London, the night after the incident in Downing Street, to MP John Randall, who, it so happens, was Deputy Chief Whip to Andrew Mitchell. It said: “Other people/tourists standing with us were also shocked and some were even, inadvertently, filming the incident…”

Of the letter, Mitchell said: “It’s very convincing – unless you know it’s untrue, as I do – and it was clearly aimed to destabilise me and finish me off by sending it into the heart of government to my deputy and could easily have done so very fast.”

Serving police officer

When Michael Crick rang the man behind the email, he denied he was there, saying: “I wasn’t a witness to anything.” Dispatches soon discovered that he was a police officer. What the investigation only found out days ago was that he is still a serving police officer.

And finally, after all of this, Andrew Mitchell was invited to meet officers of the Police Federation from around the West Midlands. He recorded the meeting – and retold his version of events. Despite these admissions, federation officers left the meeting saying Mitchell had refused to give his side of the story.

With Mitchell’s resignation, the Police Federation was triumphant and the press were jubilant. But in fact the Tory chief whip had been brought down on the say-so of a police force who may have leaked their own log, and on evidence which was only corroborated by a rather strange email from a man who claimed to be an eye witness, who later told us he was not there.

David Davis told the programme: “You try to avoid conspiracy theories in my business otherwise you’d go mad, but it does look very weird, it does look very strange.

“How on earth could this have happened? This man wasn’t where he said he was, there wasn’t the crowd he said was there, and his description reads like an extract from a police log itself. You have to say: where did this come from?”