A former policeman at the centre of the “plebgate” row, which led to the resignation of Andrew Mitchell, says the police Federation has treated the former chief whip like “tethered prey”.
In an interview with the The Times, Ian Richardson, one of the officers on the gates of Downing Street on the night of the incident, said he and his colleagues had been “betrayed” by their Metropolitan police bosses.
Mr Richardson said that he maintained that Mr Mitchell had called officers “f***ing plebs”, which Mr Mitchell denies, and was “officious and rude”, but said that he believed the MP should not have lost his job as chief whip over a “quirky incident that should have blown over”.
Read more: How the plebgate affair unfolded
He also said that officers in the Diplomatic Protection Group had undermined those officers who had been working on the gate by leaking a log of the incident to the media, and through the actions of PC Keith Wallis, who was last month jailed for 12 months for lying about witnessing the incident.
When the story came to light, and Police Federation officials began to condemn Mr Mitchell, Mr Richardson says he pleaded with senior officers to put the record straight. He says he was told his views were “of no interest to anyone”.
Last month, a Home Office report said that Police Federation crusades against politicians need to end.
Mr Richardson was the first person to speak to PC Toby Rowland, the officer who claims he was sworn at by Mr Mitchell. Though Mr Richardson, who retired a month after the incident in 2012, did not hear the exchange, he said PC Rowland recounted it to him immediately.
Mr Richardson has given three statements to Operation Alice, the inquiry into the incident.
Mr Mitchell, Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield, has conceded that he swore in the presence of officers, but denies using the other words attributed to him. He says he was stitched up by the police.
But Mr Richardson, the senior officer on the gate on the night of the incident, reiterated his support for PC Roweland’s account.
“Not for one second did I think, ‘He’s making this up’,” he said. “He repeated to us those exact phrases that were to become the absolute focus of their exchange – the swearing, the insults and the threat that we ‘hadn’t heard the last of this’.”
Mr Richardson says he then told PC Rowland to report what had happened to his sergeant, “to cover our arses”.
He said: “I said, ‘Write that down and ring the skipper because you just threatened to arrest the Chief Whip in Downing Street – there’s likely to be some problems’.”
A Metropolitan police spokesman said: “There are on-going misconduct proceedings at the moment and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”