'Ruthless' inquiry on Mitchell promised

Mon, Dec 24, 2012, 00:00

Britain’s most senior police officer promised a “ruthless” investigation into an alleged conspiracy against a Cabinet minister “no matter where the truth takes us”.

Metropolitan police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe defended his handling of the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” row after breaking off from his holiday to be briefed on progress.

Mr Mitchell increased pressure on the force yesterday when he claimed he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to “toxify” the Conservatives and ruin his career.

The former chief whip was forced to quit his Cabinet post amid a storm of protest – fuelled by the Police Federation – over claims he called officers “plebs” during an altercation in Downing Street in September.

But last week Scotland Yard opened an investigation into a possible conspiracy against the MP after it emerged an email from a civilian witness backing up the claims was in fact written by another officer.

In a statement, Mr Hogan-Howe said: “The allegations in relation to this case are extremely serious.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I am determined there will be a ruthless search for the truth – no matter where the truth takes us.”

He said the force’s determination to get to the truth was proved by his decision to devote 30 officers to the task and the arrest of a member of the diplomatic protection squad and a civilian.

Mr Hogan-Howe called for the investigation to be allowed “time and space”.

Mr Mitchell admitted swearing during the Downing Street exchange but firmly denied using the word that came to symbolise the controversy that forced him out of office.

On Thursday, police arrested and questioned a 23-year-old man on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on December 14th.

Mr Mitchell spoke out in the Sunday Telegraph as he intensified efforts to clear his name and pave the way for a return to the government’s ranks two months after being forced out.

“These awful toxic phrases which were hung round my neck for weeks and weeks in a sustained attempt to toxify the Conservative Party and destroy my career were completely and totally untrue,” he said. – (PA)