31 Mar 2013

Plebgate: Mitchell complains to IPCC over Met police

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell makes a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over an alleged leak of the Met police report into the “plebgate” affair.

The senior Tory MP wrote to the IPCC accusing the Metropolitan police of a continued campaign to “destroy” his career.

Mr Mitchell took the action after newspaper reports suggested a police file passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) contained no evidence that officers lied about his behaviour.

He strongly denies calling officers “plebs” during an altercation over their refusal to allow him to ride his bike through the Downing Street gates last year.

In December Dispatches and Channel 4 News showed CCTV footage of the exchange between Andrew Mitchell and police officers that raises questions about the claims.

And the politician – who quit as chief whip amid the storm over the incident – claims he is the victim of a conspiracy by officers to “toxify” the Tories and blacken his name.

In a letter to IPCC deputy chairman Deborah Glass, he wrote: “We are deeply dismayed that the Metropolitan police appear to have leaked part of their report prepared for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to certain members of the press and spun it to the advantage of the police officers involved.

‘Illicit attempt to blacken my name’

“This was an inquiry into a dishonest and illicit attempt to blacken my name pnd destroy my career. It would appear thpt this police enquiry continues precisely that process.”

Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said the latest development showed it was wrong for Scotland Yard to lead the inquiry into its own officers and called for the whole investigation to be taken over by the IPCC.

Scotland Yard is trying to find out how the Sun and Daily Telegraph obtained information about the “plebgate” row and if it came from police.

It is also looking at a police officer’s claim to have witnessed the altercation and allegations by Mr Mitchell that police had lied in a log of the event.

Three officers from the Diplomatic Protection Group have so far been arrested as part of the investigation. All three remain suspended.

Some 30 detectives have taken statements from all 800 officers in the DPG, which is tasked with protecting government officials.

‘Not a full file of evidence’

Papers related to the case were passed to prosecutors on Thursday, but the CPS said it was not “a full file of evidence” and that it expected more.

“We now await the conclusion of the police investigation before considering charges,” it said in what was seen as a rebuke to the force.

A number of newspapers subsequently reported sources as saying the file did not contain any evidence to back Mr Mitchell’s claim of a conspiracy by officers.

Mr Vaz said the committee had argued from the start that Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe was wrong to allow Scotland Yard to conduct the investigation.

Britain’s most senior police officer promised a “ruthless” investigation into the alleged conspiracy “no matter where the truth takes us”.

Manchester police to review

It is being supervised by the IPCC and the commissioner invited the Greater Manchester force to provide an external review.

“I am very surprised that the police report has been leaked to selected journalists,” Mr Vaz said – adding that Mr Mitchell would “rightly feel he has been badly treated by the current situation”.

Calling for the Met to pull out of the investigation, he said: “This is a good opportunity for the IPCC to take over this investigation and use the information that has been gathered so far as background”.

Mr Mitchell revealed this week that his lawyers had issued a libel writ against The Sun, which first ran the story.

A friend of Mr Mitchell said the MP had been subjected to a “campaign of vilification”. Lawyers said a number of other actions were being considered.

A spokesman for the newspaper said it stood by its story “and will defend this claim vigorously”.