1 Sep 2014

New plebgate CCTV corroborates footage broadcast by C4

Scotland Yard today finally published their report into the plebgate affair and also released new CCTV footage of the original incident which took place nearly two years ago.

Channel 4 News and Dispatches first broadcast three streams of CCTV pictures back in December 2012, but it subsequently emerged that there was other CCTV footage that hadn’t yet been made public.

And for many months people within the Met and the Police Federation – and some who simply dislike Mitchell – have been saying that this other CCTV would tell a very different story to that broadcast by Channel 4.  It would support the police in Downing Street, they claimed, and finally condemn Andrew Mitchell.


Well, it’s not turned out like that.  One sequence that’s been made public today shows the gates of Downing Street from a high point on the other side of Whitehall.  The three streams we broadcast in December 2012 comprised the output from two cameras within Downing Street itself, and also from a camera overlooking the gates from a vantage point above the pavement.

One big question is why, despite frequent requests by many people, it’s taken so long for the government to release this extra footage – so much for transparency and freedom of information.

Some of today’s material is of much higher quality than that originally obtained by Channel 4.  It’s in colour; and people’s faces aren’t blobbed; but it tells pretty much the same story as the previous film.  It again casts doubt on the statement made by PC Toby Rowland, the officer on the gate who claimed in his report that Andrew Mitchell called him and his colleagues “f****** plebs”.

In particular, the new footage raises questions about Rowland’s statement in his log of the incident that there were “several members of public present” (sic) and that they “looked visibly shocked”.  True, in the new CCTV – as we saw on the previous footage – the exchanges between the police and Mitchell do seem to have aroused the interest of one man with a rucksack on his back who walks up and down outside the gates, seemingly trying to hear what is being said.  We can also see two women walking from right to left past the gates, but neither seems to take any interest in what’s going on behind them.  Indeed, they barely look in the direction of Downing Street, and instead look either at each other, or towards the other side of Whitehall.

Today’s report says that when Rowland was questioned by the police about his claim of “several” members of the public “looking visibly shocked”, he specifically justified his claim by referring to these three people.

According to the Met report, his interrogators even pointed out to PC Rowland that the “two women appear to be looking away from the incident toward the camera and their attention was not on Mr Mitchell”.  Rowland, reportedly “maintained that this was his perception of the events as they happened in real time”.

Other people are seen to pass the gates a few seconds after Mitchell has left, but the corner of the Foreign Office would have prevented them seeing what was happening, and also prevented Rowland from seeing whether or not they were “visibly shocked”.  In any case, Rowland himself, in his police interview, did not cite these late arrivals as witnesses.

Sadly, none of the five streams of film can tell us about a single word of what was said, and specifically whether the former chief whip uttered the notorious word “plebs”, simply because there is no audio, and none of the pictures are distinct enough for speech-reading.

Today’s report reveals that Operation Alice involved an extraordinary amount of work – including 1100 statements, mostly from officers in the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG).  And we get a lot more details on how the two separate versions of events were leaked from inside the police to the outside world.

We now know that The Sun’s original report, by its political editor Tom Newton Dunn, was given to the paper directly by PC James Glanville.  Glanville, who has since been sacked, was a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), but not among the officers on duty on the night of the incident.  He overheard colleagues discussing it later that evening, and rang the Sun newspaper that night to alert them.

Newton Dunn rang Glanville the following day, the first of several phone calls between them.  Glanville then persuaded a colleague who had been working in Downing Street, PC Gillian Weatherley, to email him a photo she had taken of the report by her colleague PC Rowland.  And Glanville then passed the photo on to the Sun.  Weatherley, too, was dismissed.  What remains surprising is that neither should have been prosecuted by the CPS on the charge of misconduct in a public office.

A separate sequence of leaks revolved around another police officer in the DPG, Susie Johnson, who has also been sacked from the Met over what happened.  The Sun newspaper revealed as part of their defence to Andrew Mitchell’s libel action that they had a second source for their front-page story – an anonymous phone call to the newspaper, from a woman claiming to be a tourist who had witnessed events and supposedly overheard Mitchell telling the police in Downing Street: “You’re f****** morons, you think you run the country, well you don’t.”

When the Met pursued this second source they managed to trace the phone call to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, and more precisely the office of the female domestic partner of Susie Johnson.  Police enquiries also showed that Johnson was in regular contact with Keith Wallis, the DPG officer who was jailed for 12 months for emailing his own false claims of being a tourist eyewitness to the his local MP John Randall (which used similar words to the Hinchingbrooke caller).  Indeed Susie Johnson applauded Wallis in sending his email to Randall, and encouraged him to pursue the matter with his MP.  It’s all rather different from the defence claim at Wallis’s trial that he acted alone, a claim which went unchallenged by the prosecution.

So today’s report reveals two chains of leaks from within the Diplomatic Protection Group.  The first involved James Glanville tipping off The Sun, and then he and his fellow DPG officer Gillian Weatherley passing onto the newspaper Rowland’s log of the event.  The second team who tried to do down Andrew Mitchell comprised at least three people – two other DPG officers, Keith Wallis and Susie Johnson, and Johnson’s partner at Hinchingbrooke.

We’ll no doubt hear a lot more about this when the two libel cases come to trial on 17 November.  Andrew Mitchell is suing The Sun newspaper, while PC Toby Rowland is in turn suing Andrew Mitchell.  Both cases will be heard together.

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