UK Politics

Andrew Mitchell says 'plebgate' officer 'not telling truth'

Ex-minister Andrew Mitchell has accused the police officer at the centre of the "plebgate" row of "not telling the truth", at a press conference.

Mr Mitchell said claims he called the police "plebs" and swore at them had been "made up and disseminated" by the officer on duty at the time of the Downing Street incident.

Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to show the officer lied.

And the officer said he stood by his account of what happened

The dispute occurred when Mr Mitchell was stopped from cycling through Downing Street's gates.

The Tory MP, who was the government's chief whip at the time, admits swearing during the incident but denies it was directed at the officers or that he called them plebs.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says five police officers - all members of the elite Diplomatic Protection Group - will now face gross misconduct proceedings linked to the subsequent row, meaning they could lose their jobs.

The Crown Prosecution Service has also charged one officer, PC Keith Wallis, over the allegation that he falsely claimed to have witnessed the incident in an email to his MP.

'No independent accounts'

But PC Toby Rowland, the officer who reported the incident, is not one of the five facing disciplinary action.

A total of eight people, including three police officers, were investigated as part of the probe into "plebgate", amid claims Mr Mitchell had been the victim of a politically-motivated "stitch-up" to force him out of office.

Mr Mitchell said he welcomed the criminal and disciplinary charges as the start of a process "that should ensure that justice is done".

But the ex-minister, who is suing the Sun newspaper - which first reported the story - for libel, challenged the PC to repeat his claims under oath in court "to allow a decision to be made between my account and his".

The CPS has suggested that Mr Mitchell's account of events had "varied" over time but he insisted he had been "completely clear" from the start about what he had and had not said.

He suggested the officer had "invented the three lying phrases - about plebs and people knowing their place - which appeared in the police log and were used to destroy my political career".

"These phrases are completely untrue. They were made up and disseminated by a police officer."

And he added: "I wish to make clear that PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth."

But, in a statement, PC Rowland said he stood by his account of what happened in Downing Street.

"This has now been thoroughly investigated and the CPS has confirmed there is insufficient evidence to take any criminal proceedings against me," he said.

"In addition, neither am I subject to any disciplinary proceedings. I confirm that I am prepared to give evidence under oath if required."

'Conspiracy'

Earlier, director of public pProsecutions Alison Saunders said the CPS had considered "all of the evidence" in this case, including previously unseen, unedited CCTV footage from Downing Street, before deciding not to bring charges against PC Rowland.

"Taking it all into account, including the accounts of the officer at the gate of Downing Street and that of Andrew Mitchell MP before, during and after the incident, we have found that there is insufficient evidence to show that the officer at the gate lied in his account," she said.

"The CPS has also found that there is insufficient evidence to show that Mr Mitchell was the victim of a conspiracy of misinformation."

But the CPS said it had decided to charge PC Wallis over the allegation he falsely claimed to have witnessed the incident in an email to deputy chief whip, John Randall, who was his MP.

PC Wallis has been charged and is required to attend Westminster Magistrates' Court on 16 December.

The CPS said there were "no independent accounts" of what was said at the Downing Street gates on 19 September 2012 and analysis of CCTV footage had not provided sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution, as there had been no sound recording.

Mrs Saunders said the leak to the media of the gate officer's email account of what happened, by a colleague unconnected to the incident, was in the public interest.

Camera footage

Following the row, the Daily Telegraph published what it called a police log of the incident - but a Channel 4 investigation appeared to cast doubt on the officers' account when it revealed CCTV footage showed there was not a large group of tourists outside the main gate at the time as had originally been claimed.

However the CPS statement on Tuesday said the programme "showed edited footage that was less than clear in a number of regards".

Channel 4 said it stood by its investigation, adding: "The footage as broadcast for the first time on December 18 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."

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, and which used the "plebgate" incident in its publicity campaign against government cuts, said it "welcomed" the CPS decision, adding it has always been concerned by "selected information that has been put into the public domain".

Allies of Mr Mitchell have called for him to be brought back into government.

He told Channel 4 News that he had enjoyed his time as a minister and would like to serve again, adding that was satisfied that he had "an understanding with the prime minister on this point".

No 10 declined to comment on the CPS decisions - but a spokesman said the prime minister had always made clear that he had "high regard" for the police officers who protect Downing Street.

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