‘Plebgate’ police officers to be brought in front of MPs
Officers to be forced to apologise or face being found guilty of contempt of parliament
A file image of Andrew Mitchell: officers accused of giving misleading accounts of a meeting with the former chief whip are facing a new watchdog. Photograph: PA
Police officers accused of giving misleading accounts of a meeting with former British government chief whip Andrew Mitchell are facing a new watchdog investigation and will brought back before MPs to apologise for evidence they gave to an influential committee.
Police Federation representatives inspector Ken MacKaill, detective sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones were all told they would face no action for misconduct over press statements they made following the meeting with Mr Mitchell in the west Midlands in October last year.
He spoke to the officers, who were representing Warwickshire, west Mercia and west Midlands police, in a bid to clear the air after an alleged foul-mouthed confrontation with police in Downing Street the previous month, dubbed ‘plebgate’.
Today, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it will hold its own investigation into their behaviour after finding “procedural irregularities” in the way the inquiry was dealt with.
Mr Jones and Mr Hinton have been also called to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) for a second time on Tuesday, after being accused of giving “misleading” answers when they gave evidence to MPs on October 23rd. The committee wants the pair “to apologise for misleading it”.
The trio were told that they would face no disciplinary action after senior officers disagreed with chief inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams who found they had a case to answer for misconduct.
But IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass said there were “procedural irregularities” in how a final report on the matter was drawn up.
She said: “Evidence given to the Home Affairs Select Committee on October 23rd revealed a number of procedural irregularities between the production of the draft and final west Mercia reports.
“On August 12th, 2013, a final report was provided to the IPCC. It contained a single set of conclusions to the effect that no case to answer for misconduct was made out against any of the three officers under investigation.
“However, it is clear from CI Reakes-Williams’s evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee that this conclusion did not reflect his opinion. His opinion was (and remains) that a case to answer for misconduct was made out.
However, he mistakenly believed that his report should reflect the view of the ”appropriate authorities“ — the senior officers in each of the forces involved.
“The ‘appropriate authorities’ are the final decision-making bodies, and they are entitled to reach a different decision to the conclusions of the investigator. However, this is an entirely separate process. The procedure described above has conflated the two.”
Ms Glass, who gave evidence to the committee on the same day as the three officers, had told MPs she did not have the power to re-start the investigation.
But today she said that because the final report did not include Mr Reakes-Williams’s opinion, the investigation is incomplete.
“What is now clear is that the final report I received did not contain the opinion of the investigating officer, but instead erroneously recorded the view of the appropriate authorities,” she said. “Therefore, for the purposes of the legislation, I consider that in fact there is no final report.
“Consequently, the investigation is not complete and the decision making function of the appropriate authorities concerning whether the officers have a case to answer for misconduct is not yet engaged; the decisions they have purported to reach are void.”
She said the IPCC was launching its own inquiry to avoid damaging public confidence.
“I have determined that a change in the mode of investigation is justified as it would be in the public interest to do so, not least because the catalogue of fundamental procedural irregularities is capable of significantly undermining public confidence in the final outcome of the investigation.