9 Jul 2013

Police chief Hogan-Howe sorry for ‘plebgate’ damage

Speaking to MPs, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is forced to say sorry over the damage to Andrew Mitchell’s confidence in police following the “plebgate” row.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan police force, said he had not tried to protect the police officers at the centre of the “plebgate” scandal by leaking a story to the papers.

Facing MPs on the home affairs select committee today, Mr Hogan-Howe answered questions about “plebgate”, in which Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell lost his job for allegedly calling some police officers “plebs”.

The police report and an enraged email supposedly sent by a witness are allegedly fabricated, according to evidence found by Channel 4’s Dispatches. Today Mr Hogan-Howe denied trying to protect the officers by leaking a report saying they were innocent. He said he did not know why two papers had run that story at the same time –

“I can’t say what caused them to write the story, I can’t account for that.”

Mr Hogan-Howe confirmed he had spoken to journalists before the stories appeared, and said that meeting had not been recorded – a fact that he admitted was unusual. He said his concern was always the reputation of the Metropolitan police.

‘Rare event’

MPs also questioned the Met chief on accusations that police officers had bugged and then tried to smear the parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and his friend Duwayne Brooks, as uncovered by Channel 4.

Mr Hogan-Howe said it was “possible though not usual” to covertly record victims or witnesses talking to their lawyers.

“It is an incredibly rare event,” he said. “There would have to be justification.”

The committee questioned Mr Hogan-Howe on a series of other scandals that have hit the Metropolitan police in the past few months, including reports that undercover police officers had had sexual relationships with the people they were spying on and that they had used the identities of dead children.

The policeman apologised to both the women and the parents of the dead children, and said that the police were investigating what happened.

Boris Johnson also appeared in front of the committee to discuss the Met’s recent record on policing. He talked about the value of investigations whose aggregate costs now run £23m, in maintaining trust in the Met.