UK

Plebgate libel trial: Sacked PC denies wish to harm Mitchell

Dispatches/Channel 4 News still from CCTV footage during the exchange between Andrew Mitchell and police officers at the gates of Downing Street Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption CCTV footage of Mr Mitchell at the Downing Street gates was broadcast by Channel 4

A former police officer who was on duty during the 2012 "plebgate" row has denied wishing to harm Andrew Mitchell MP or the government.

Gillian Weatherley was sacked over leaks of alleged details of the row between officers and Mr Mitchell.

A libel trial at London's High Court is hearing rival claims from ex-chief whip Mr Mitchell and PC Toby Rowland.

PC Rowland claims the MP called officers plebs during the argument at the gates of Downing Street.

Miss Weatherley was on duty at the gates when Mr Mitchell was stopped from cycling through.

The row made national headlines and led to Mr Mitchell - who admits swearing but says his words were not aimed at officers and denies using the word plebs - resigning as chief whip.

'Same pack of lies'

Giving evidence, Miss Weatherley said she did not know who Mr Mitchell was or what office in government he held when she directed him to the pedestrian exit on the night of the row.

She told the court she was "somewhat surprised and shocked" when PC Rowland then told her Mr Mitchell had sworn and called the officers "plebs" who should know their place.

An internal email containing PC Rowland's account of the altercation later appeared in The Sun.

However, Miss Weatherley told the trial she had not suspected it had been leaked by another officer, James Glanville, who was also later sacked.

Miss Weatherley had sent a photo of an email containing PC Rowland's account to Mr Glanville via a text message, the court was told.

She said she had sent it because Mr Glanville was interested in reading the remarks.

He told her he had deleted it after reading the message, she told the court, which was why she did not tell the police investigation into the leak that she had sent the message.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police refused to open the main Downing Street gate as the then cabinet minister tried to leave on his bike

Challenged by James Price QC - representing Mr Mitchell - Miss Weatherley denied she was telling the court the "same pack of lies" she had told the police disciplinary hearing.

When Mr Price put it to her that had been "quite keen to damage the government", Miss Weatherley replied: "No, I was not."

She said text messages she had sent saying she could "topple the Tory government" and she still had time to "bring the government down" were meant to be sarcastic remarks.

Mr Price put it to Miss Weatherley that she had invented a story about a female passer-by who had been shocked by the row, to justify PC Rowland giving the cabinet minister a public order warning. She denied the claims.

Mr Mitchell is suing News Group Newspapers because of the Sun's coverage of the clash.

At the same time, PC Rowland is suing Mr Mitchell for comments which the former minister made in the media and at a press conference a year later.

At the end of the two-week hearing, the judge will rule on the preliminary issues of the meaning of the words complained of and whether they were substantially true.

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