New police report fires up Britain's 'plebgate' scandal

15th October 2013, Comments 0 comments

Britain's police watchdog on Tuesday questioned the honesty of three officers whose actions helped lead to the resignation of former minister Andrew Mitchell, lending credence to his explosive claims that he was the victim of a smear campaign.

Mitchell resigned from Prime Minister David Cameron's government in October 2012 after he was accused of calling police officers "fucking plebs" in an altercation as he tried to push his bike through the gates of Downing Street.

The Conservative minister admitted swearing but strongly denied using the politically toxic word "plebs", a derogatory term used to describe commoners.

The Police Federation, the police's staff association, immediately began using the scandal in its campaign against government cuts to the police budgets, wearing "PC Pleb" t-shirts at the Conservative party conference.

London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has yet to publish its investigation into the incident, dubbed "plebgate", but the new report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) portrays the police in a poor light.

Three weeks after the altercation, Mitchell met with three representatives of the Police Federation in a bid to smooth things over.

The meeting ended up sealing his fate, as the officers told reporters afterwards that Mitchell had failed to allay their concerns and should resign. Mitchell, who was overseas aid minister, quit a few days later.

But Mitchell's supporters accused the officers of deliberately misrepresenting what he said to discredit him, releasing a recording of the meeting to prove their point.

An initial internal investigation found the officers had no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct, but the IPCC disagreed.

"In my view, the evidence is such that a (disciplinary) panel should determine whether the three officers gave a false account of the meeting in a deliberate attempt to support their MPS colleague and discredit Mr Mitchell, in pursuit of a wider agenda," said IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass.

"In my opinion the evidence and the surrounding circumstances do give an indication of an issue of honesty and integrity and/or discreditable conduct, not merely naive or poor professional judgment."

The IPCC said it had no power to rule on the incident because Mitchell never made a formal complaint, and so restricted itself to urging a new disciplinary review.

However, the police forces represented by the three officials said they stood by their original probe -- something Mitchell said was a matter of "deep concern".

"It is a decision which will undermine confidence in the ability of the police to investigate misconduct when the reputation of the police service as a whole is at stake," he said.

"My family and I have waited nearly a year for these police officers to be held to account and for an apology from the police forces involved. It seems we have waited in vain."

© 2013 AFP

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