10 Jan 2014

Met chief’s apology after Pc admits lying about ‘plebgate’

Pc Keith Wallis admits lying about witnessing the abuse of police in Downing Street. But it means he will not be questioned – and we will not find out who else was involved in his lies.

“It is very sad and worrying for all of us that a serving police officer should have behaved in this way” – the response of former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell after Pc Keith Wallis, 53, admitted misconduct in public office between 19 September and 16 December 2012, by saying he had witnessed the incident and arranging for his nephew to support the claim.

The country’s top policeman, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has now apologised to Mr Mitchell – though the officer involved in the argument is sticking to his version of events.

Wallis was charged after he sent an email to Conservative deputy chief whip John Randall, who was his MP, wrongly claiming that he had seen what happened in Downing Street on 19 September 2012.

It is very sad and worrying for all of us that a serving police officer should have behaved in this way. Andrew Mitchell MP

The police account of what happened that day was called into question by a Channel 4 News/Dispatches investigation in December 2012. The affair has become known as “plebgate“.

The row erupted when Andrew Mitchell became involved in a heated confrontation with another police officer, Toby Rowland, after he was refused permission to cycle through the main gate.

Mr Mitchell admitted swearing but denied Pc Rowland’s claim that he used the word “pleb”. Pc Wallis, who has offered to resign as a police officer, will be sentenced on 6 February.

Misconduct hearing

Scotland Yard said he would face a misconduct hearing at the conclusion of all legal proceedings, relating to “discreditable conduct, honesty and integrity, and/or improper disclosure of information”.

Mr Mitchell, the Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield, welcomed the guilty plea. He said in a statement: “I am pleased that justice has been done in a criminal court today.

“It is very sad and worrying for all of us that a serving police officer should have behaved in this way. There remain many questions unanswered, in particular why Pc Wallis wrote this email and who else was involved in this process.”

Four other officers have a case to answer for gross misconduct and will be subject to a misconduct hearing in relation to improper disclosure of information, the force said, with the earliest time the hearings can be held said to be in March.

‘Extremely damaging allegations’

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe apologised to Mr Mitchell for the lie told by an officer, and said: “This investigation has been a ruthless search for the truth as at the heart of this are extremely damaging allegations that officers have lied and falsified statements against a Cabinet minister.

“The evidence against Pc Wallis was such that he has entered a guilty plea. To lie about witnessing something and provide a false account falls way below the standards that I and Pc Wallis’s colleague expect of police officers.

“His actions have also negatively impacted upon public trust and confidence in the integrity of police officers.

“I would also like to apologise to Mr Mitchell that an MPS officer clearly lied about seeing him behaving in a certain manner. I will be writing to him offering to meet and apologise in person.

“I expect my officers to serve the public without fear or favour, where officers break the law they must expect to be held to account and answer for what they have done.”

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, which has held several evidence sessions on the “plebgate” affair, said: “This plea is not only the first public acknowledgement that Mr Mitchell has been the subject of gross unfairness, but it also an admission that a criminal offence has been committed against him.

“With 11 other officers being subject to misconduct hearings, and the further investigation by the IPCC, this appears to be a complete vindication of Mr Mitchell’s position.”

How Channel 4 News/Dispatches broke the “plebgate” story in December 2012