Guardian: How the Police Account of ‘Plebgate’ Was Cast Into Doubt

Nicholas Watt
The Guardian
Dec 19, 2012

The official police log, published by the Daily Telegraph on 24 September, reports that Mitchell raged at the officers when they blocked him.

Chief Whip Mitchell sporting the commoner’s push-bike avec wicker baskette.

The log said: “There were several members of public present as is the norm opposite the pedestrian gate and as we neared it, Mr Mitchell said: ‘Best you learn your fucking place… you don’t run this fucking government… you’re fucking plebs.’

“The members of public looked visibly shocked and I was somewhat taken aback by the language used and the view expressed by a senior government official. I can not say if this statement was aimed at me individually, or the officers present or the police service as a whole.”

Amid the battle between Mitchell and the police it is easy to forget that in some areas they are in agreement. Mitchell has admitted that he swore at the police, saying: “I thought you guys were fucking meant to help us.”

But then their accounts differ. Mitchell says the CCTV footage shows the log is wrong to claim that members of the public were present on the other side of the gates. This is seen as crucial because the account written by the off-duty police officer, which repeated details about Mitchell calling the police “fucking plebs”, also claimed that there were witnesses.

Mitchell also says the CCTV footage shows he could not have uttered the toxic word “pleb”. This is because the police log says that he uttered these words “as we neared” the pedestrian gate. The CCTV is inconclusive: there are no physical signs that he is speaking or angry, but his face cannot be seen.

As Mitchell wheeled his bike through the pedestrian gate the two accounts find common ground again. The police claimed in their log that he said “you haven’t heard the last of this” as he cycled away.

Mitchell admits that he uttered words to this effect. His friends believe this is the most likely explanation for the decision of the police officers to write up an account of the incident.

The two police officers who made the original report have remained silent – as they have to – as a whirlwind of allegations about conspiracies, fabrication of evidence and fit-ups swirls around them. The constables, one female, one male, remain in their positions in the diplomatic protection unit, SO6, and are determined, it is said, to get on with their jobs. Those who have had contact with the officers say that, in the immediate aftermath of the altercation at the gates of Downing Street, both officers made notes of what they say happened in their pocketbooks.

Putting it colloquially, sources who spoke to the officers afterwards said they were “bricking it” and were concerned that they needed to make as clear a note as possible of what happened and make sure that it was seen by those above them.

To cover themselves, they wrote a log of the incident from their pocketbook notes, and very soon afterwards emailed it up through the chain of command at the Metropolitan police to a sergeant, an inspector and – it is understood – even higher up the ranks. The Guardian understands a number of officers would have had sight of this emailed log – a tactic adopted by the officers for their own protection.

Mitchell’s friends believe that his warning of repercussions explains why the police – though not necessarily the officers on duty – felt the need for corroboratory evidence in the form of an eyewitness account. “They needed an extra voice,” one friend suggested.

At 9.52pm on 20 September, just over 24 hours after the incident, an off-duty member of the diplomatic protection unit sent an email to his local MP, John Randall, with an account that is almost identical to the police log. Randall was the deputy chief whip, who had strained relations with Mitchell. There were reports in the days leading up to Mitchell’s resignation that Randall had threatened to resign unless Mitchell went. No 10 sources have stressed that Randall acted entirely properly as an MP in forwarding the email from a constituent to No 10.

Friends of the chief whip say the email from the officer to Randall proves that there was collusion within the Met – though this did not necessarily involve the officers who wrote the police log. This is because the email was virtually identical to the police log, which did not appear in the public domain until four days later when the Daily Telegraph published it on 24 September.

The Metropolitan police are now investigating whether that officer fabricated evidence. It has made clear that the officer was not present at the time, as he claimed. Their investigation is also examining whether any third party leaked the information about the incident to the Sun. Scotland Yard would not comment on whether it would be interviewing Randall as part of this tranche of the investigation. Three days after the Sun article, what purported to be the full officers’ log appeared in the Daily Telegraph corroborating the Sun’s version of what had been said.

Scotland Yard has never challenged the accuracy of the officers’ log published in the Telegraph. On Tuesday the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, publicly stated that nothing he had seen in the past few days had affected the original report of the episode by the officers in Downing Street at the time. He said: “There’s nothing I’ve seen in this fresh information that causes me to doubt that original account.” Sources said on Wednesday – after Channel 4 broadcast the CCTV, which Mitchell says casts doubt on the police officers accounts in their log of the altercation – that the commissioner’s comments still stood.

Inside Scotland Yard, 30 officers are now running a major inquiry into who leaked the information to the Sun and the Telegraph, and into the alleged fabrication of evidence by the third officer who posed as a member of the public in his correspondence.

He was arrested last Saturday night on suspicion of misconduct in public office and the unauthorised release of information. Scotland Yard said its inquiry would examine whether there was any evidence of a conspiracy between this officer and any other person.

The atmosphere inside Scotland Yard is said to be extremely tense as Hogan-Howe, an authoritarian commissioner at the best of times, demands answers in the face of a broadside by his political masters in Downing Street to “get to the bottom of the matter”.

The official police log, published by the Daily Telegraph on 24 September, reports that Mitchell raged at the officers when they blocked him. The log said: “There were several members of public present as is the norm opposite the pedestrian gate and as we neared it, Mr Mitchell said: ‘Best you learn your fucking place … you don’t run this fucking government … You’re fucking plebs.’

“The members of public looked visibly shocked and I was somewhat taken aback by the language used and the view expressed by a senior government official. I can not say if this statement was aimed at me individually, or the officers present or the police service as a whole.”

Amid the battle between Mitchell and the police it is easy to forget that in some areas they are in agreement. Mitchell has admitted that he swore at the police, saying: “I thought you guys were fucking meant to help us.”

But then their accounts differ. Mitchell says the CCTV footage shows the log is wrong to claim that members of the public were present on the other side of the gates. This is seen as crucial because the account written by the off-duty police officer, which repeated details about Mitchell calling the police “fucking plebs”, also claimed that there were witnesses.

Mitchell also says the CCTV footage shows he could not have uttered the toxic word “pleb”. This is because the police log says that he uttered these words “as we neared” the pedestrian gate. The CCTV is inconclusive: there are no physical signs that he is speaking or angry, but his face cannot be seen.

As Mitchell wheeled his bike through the pedestrian gate the two accounts find common ground again. The police claimed in their log that he said “you haven’t heard the last of this” as he cycled away.

Mitchell admits that he uttered words to this effect. His friends believe this is the most likely explanation for the decision of the police officers to write up an account of the incident.

The two police officers who made the original report have remained silent – as they have to – as a whirlwind of allegations about conspiracies, fabrication of evidence and fit-ups swirls around them. The constables, one female, one male, remain in their positions in the diplomatic protection unit, SO6, and are determined, it is said, to get on with their jobs. Those who have had contact with the officers say that, in the immediate aftermath of the altercation at the gates of Downing Street, both officers made notes of what they say happened in their pocketbooks.

Putting it colloquially, sources who spoke to the officers afterwards said they were “bricking it” and were concerned that they needed to make as clear a note as possible of what happened and make sure that it was seen by those above them.

To cover themselves, they wrote a log of the incident from their pocketbook notes, and very soon afterwards emailed it up through the chain of command at the Metropolitan police to a sergeant, an inspector and – it is understood – even higher up the ranks. The Guardian understands a number of officers would have had sight of this emailed log – a tactic adopted by the officers for their own protection.

Mitchell’s friends believe that his warning of repercussions explains why the police – though not necessarily the officers on duty – felt the need for corroboratory evidence in the form of an eyewitness account. “They needed an extra voice,” one friend suggested.

At 9.52pm on 20 September, just over 24 hours after the incident, an off-duty member of the diplomatic protection unit sent an email to his local MP, John Randall, with an account that is almost identical to the police log. Randall was the deputy chief whip, who had strained relations with Mitchell. There were reports in the days leading up to Mitchell’s resignation that Randall had threatened to resign unless Mitchell went. No 10 sources have stressed that Randall acted entirely properly as an MP in forwarding the email from a constituent to No 10.

Friends of the chief whip say the email from the officer to Randall proves that there was collusion within the Met – though this did not necessarily involve the officers who wrote the police log. This is because the email was virtually identical to the police log, which did not appear in the public domain until four days later when the Daily Telegraph published it on 24 September.

The Metropolitan police are now investigating whether that officer fabricated evidence. It has made clear that the officer was not present at the time, as he claimed. Their investigation is also examining whether any third party leaked the information about the incident to the Sun. Scotland Yard would not comment on whether it would be interviewing Randall as part of this tranche of the investigation. Three days after the Sun article, what purported to be the full officers’ log appeared in the Daily Telegraph corroborating the Sun’s version of what had been said.

Scotland Yard has never challenged the accuracy of the officers’ log published in the Telegraph. On Tuesday the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, publicly stated that nothing he had seen in the past few days had affected the original report of the episode by the officers in Downing Street at the time. He said: “There’s nothing I’ve seen in this fresh information that causes me to doubt that original account.” Sources said on Wednesday – after Channel 4 broadcast the CCTV, which Mitchell says casts doubt on the police officers accounts in their log of the altercation – that the commissioner’s comments still stood.

Inside Scotland Yard, 30 officers are now running a major inquiry into who leaked the information to the Sun and the Telegraph, and into the alleged fabrication of evidence by the third officer who posed as a member of the public in his correspondence.

He was arrested last Saturday night on suspicion of misconduct in public office and the unauthorised release of information. Scotland Yard said its inquiry would examine whether there was any evidence of a conspiracy between this officer and any other person.

The atmosphere inside Scotland Yard is said to be extremely tense as Hogan-Howe, an authoritarian commissioner at the best of times, demands answers in the face of a broadside by his political masters in Downing Street to “get to the bottom of the matter”…

Read more here at the Guardian

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