20 Dec 2012

Second man arrested in ‘plebgate’ investigation

A 23-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the investigation into an alleged row between Andrew Mitchell and a Downing Street police officer.

The second “plebgate” arrest has been made on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

Police have confirmed that the 23-year-old was arrested at his home at 8pm last night and questioned at a London police station. He was released on bail this morning and will return on a date in January 2013.

This is the second man to be arrested in the investigation and police have confirmed he is not a police officer or member of police staff.

Dispatches and Channel 4 News revealed CCTV footage of the exchange between Andrew Mitchell and police officers earlier this week that raised questions about the account in leaked police logs.

A constable from the diplomatic protection group was arrested on Saturday evening and bailed earlier this week, Scotland Yard confirmed. He is currently suspended from duty.

On Wednesday the police revealed that 30 officers are now working on the inquiry which is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Attention has now been put on the Police Federation as the former home secretary Kenneth Baker claims the body is in “real trouble” over the affair.

Lord Baker told BBC2’s Daily Politics: “The Police Federation decided to become a lobbying, an extremely aggressive lobbying body, determined to get a minister – a cabinet minister – because they were very opposed to what the home secretary is doing looking into their pay, pensions and early retirement.”

Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales Paul McKeever has acknowledged concerns that his organisation “stoked up” media attention in Mr Mitchell and said he would apologise to the MP if the current investigation showed he had been wrongly accused. In a statement to Channel 4 News, Mr McKeever said:

“This is a hypothetical question as currently, there is no suggestion that the officers’ accounts are in question. Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has made that quite clear. Should the investigation find that Andrew Mitchell has been done a calumny, if the facts change, then I would personally apologise for my initial position at the time. That would be right and proper. Fairness is not a one way street.”

Mr McKeever admitted he came close to demanding the minister’s head in the days after the row erupted, but said that within days the federation was taking the line on a national level that it was not calling for his resignation.

He said that it was for each of the 43 local federations “to reflect the views of their members”, adding: “I can’t criticise the local federations for the line they took. It’s for them to account for their actions.”