As one policeman is charged in connection with “plebgate”, former minister Andrew Mitchell says he cannot believe the officer who made the “pleb” allegations against him will not be prosecuted.
PC Keith Wallis stands accused of lying in an email to the deputy chief whip John Randall, in which he claimed to have witnessed the incident in Downing Street last year. He will be charged with misconduct in a public office, after an investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The CPS said that CCTV evidence from five separate cameras did not provide sufficient evidence to support either Andrew Mitchell or the police officers – nor was there enough evidence to support claims of a criminal conspiracy.
However, in a damning statement, former chief whip Andrew Mitchell accused police officers of lying and said he disagreed with the CPS findings.
He said the key question – ignored by the CPS – was who “invented” the crucial phrases he was accused of uttering, which included the words “plebs” and “know your place”.
“They were made up and disseminated by police,” he said, adding: “PC Toby Roland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases in his notebook, was not telling the truth.”
He added: “I have told the truth about these incidents. The police did not. My reputation was destroyed.”
A row erupted between police officers and Mr Mitchell over a confrontation at the Downing Street gates on 19 September 2012, when officers did not permit Mr Mitchell to ride his bicycle through the main gate.
The officers claimed Mr Mitchell called them “plebs” and swore in anger. Mr Mitchell denied using the word in question, but admitted that he had lost his temper.
Evidence in the case was reviewed by a specialist prosecutor and Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders was given advice by a QC.
The CPS accused Mr Mitchell of “varying” his statement – something he strongly denied. The former chief whip gave a press conference, during which David Davis MP took journalists through the CCTV footage and the account of the incident logged by PC Rowland, which he claimed showed that police officers were lying. He said: “According to PC Rowland, 40 words were spoken in five seconds.”
Mr Mitchell’s lawyer also gave a statement, and criticised the police investigation for not questioning PC Rowlands under criminal caution, nor seeking independent evidence. He said: “An opportunity to restore trust in the police has been missed.”
CHANNEL 4 AND ITN STATEMENT
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said on Tuesday: “The CCTV footage that has been aired publicly was edited and did not show the full picture.”
In response, Channel 4 and ITN said: “The CCTV footage was obtained by Andrew Mitchell from Downing Street and provided to Dispatches and Channel 4 News. The footage as broadcast for the first time on 18 December 2012 was not edited by the production team to change or alter the sequence of events.
“Furthermore the three camera angles that we were provided with were image-matched frame by frame to confirm their veracity. We stand fully behind this investigation.”
In addition, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that five officers, including PC Wallis, will face gross misconduct proceedings over the incident. Another two officers will be subject to local misconduct in relation to providing inaccurate statements or inappropriate comments.
PC Wallis will attend Westminster magistrates’ court on 16 December 2013. He is currently suspended from duty and will face misconduct proceedings after the conclusion of the criminal case.
Regarding the leak of the police report to the media at the time, the CPS found that there was no evidence of payment to the officer, and said that the leak was in the public interest.
Ms Saunders said: “This type of conduct raises issues in relation to the right to freedom of expression, including the right to freely impart and receive information, and these are important rights enshrined in our law.”
If these officers have broken the law or acted without impartiality or integrity, then they must answer for that. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
As well as PC Wallis, two more officers were under investigation for perverting the course of justice in terms of the statements they provided to the investigation.
The CPS said that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, but Ms Saunders added: “The conclusions we have reached do not in any way condone the actions of those involved in this case.”
She also said a separate investigation into whether their actions went against police regulation, is for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to investigate.
Regarding the IPCC proceedings against seven officers, Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe 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.
He added: “If these officers have broken the law or acted without impartiality or integrity then they must answer for that, be it in a court of law or at gross misconduct hearings.”
CCTV evidence, emails and other messages between police and members of the public had been scrutinised as part of the CPS investigation. “We have considered evidence in relation to 14 individuals, including 10 police officers, a member of the media and three members of the public,” said Ms Saunders.
Eight people, including five police constables and three members of the public, were arrested and bailed until this week.
Ms Saunders highlighted the conflicting accounts of what Mr Mitchell said. The gate officer claims he used the words: “You should know your f****** place, you don’t run this f****** government, you’re f****** plebs.”
However Mr Mitchell claimed he said: “I thought you guys were supposed to f******help us”.