18 Sep 2013

Former DPP condemns length of ‘plebgate’ inquiry

Ken Macdonald says the investigation into the “plebgate” affair is taking too long and a missile may be “heading straight for the heart of the Metropolitan police”.

Ken Macdonald says the investigation into the

Lord Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, says it was “outrageous” that the Metropolitan police had yet to publish its report about the 45-second incident in Downing Street which led to the then chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s resignation.

Mr Mitchell resigned from the cabinet following claims that he had called police officers “plebs” during the altercation in September 2012, as he attempted to wheel his bike through the gates.

A subsequent investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches and Channel 4 News in December found that CCTV footage of the incident raised questions about the account in police logs leaked to newspapers.

According to the logs, there were “several members of the public” outside the Downing Street gates at the time who were “visibly shocked” by what was happening. But the CCTV footage showed there were not crowds of people watching and listening.

Andrew Mitchell has always denied using the word “plebs” and swearing. He believes he was the victim of a smear campaign to ruin his political career.

Lord Howard, the former Conservative leader, told the BBC’s World at One that if the “plebs” allegation had been fabricated, “the consequences would be very serious”.


In an article in the Times, Lord Macdonald said: “If it turns out that ‘pleb’, the career-killing use of that lethal, single-syllable exocet, was fabricated, as Mr Mitchell has always claimed it was, it will be certain that the missile is heading straight for the heart of the Metropolitan police.”

He added: “It seems quite outrageous that, in the face of the simplicity of the allegations and this significant commitment of public resources, the investigation rambles on with no apparent end in sight.

“We are talking here about the resignation of a British cabinet minister, a resignation forced upon him at the height of his career by police allegations that are now seriously called into question. An expeditious and thorough investigation should have been perfectly possible.”

‘Plain foolish’

Lord Macdonald said Metropolitan police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was “plain foolish” for exonerating his officers as he was announcing an investigation into the affair.

Sir Bernard later told MPs he had not seen the CCTV footage when he stood by his officers.

Andrew Mitchell 'plebgate' row: the key questions

Eight arrests have been made as part of the Metropolitan police investigation, known as Operation Alice, which has already cost close to £200,000.

Some 30 detectives have taken statements from all 800 officers in the Diplomatic Protection Group as part of the inquiry, which has taken nine months to date.

‘Very serious allegations’

The Metrpolitan police said in a statement: “This investigation is examining very serious allegations, that go to the heart of the public’s trust in the police service.

“The MPS is conducting a thorough investigation that aims to establish the truth of what has taken place and find the best possible evidence.

“An initial file was passed to the CPS in March 2013, however since that time three separate pieces of information have been given to us. As a result further enquiries have had to be made.”

Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is supervising the Met investigation, said: “While the incident which sparked this investigation is on the face of it simple – it took less than a minute to unfold – what has evolved are allegations of a conspiracy which by its very nature is complex.

“While I share the concerns of others that the investigation is taking far longer than originally anticipated, I am regularly updated on its progress, I am personally reviewing the evidence and I am satisfied that all that can be done to conclude the investigation is being done and that Mr Mitchell himself is kept informed.”