How we use Cookies

Police officer faces charge over Andrew Mitchell Plebgate row

Pc Keith Wallis is accused of misconduct in public office over claims he sent an email to his MP, wrongly claiming he had seen what happened in Downing Street

The 'plebgate' saga, involving Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell, rumbles on

A police officer is facing a criminal charge and he and four colleagues could lose their jobs over the Plebgate row.

Pc Keith Wallis is accused of misconduct in public office over claims he sent an email to the deputy chief whip, John Randall, who was his MP, wrongly claiming he had seen what happened in Downing Street last year.

A row erupted after then-chief whip Andrew Mitchell became involved in a heated confrontation with an officer after he was refused permission to cycle through the main gate. He admitted swearing but denied the officer’s claim he had used the word pleb.

Today the Independent Police Complaints Commission said that Wallis and four other colleagues will face gross misconduct proceedings over the row, meaning they could face the sack.

Mr Mitchell staged a fightback after the Downing Street incident, alleging he was victim to attempts to “toxify” his career.

However today prosecutors said there was no evidence of a criminal conspiracy against him, and no conclusive proof either his account or the officer’s account of what was said was correct.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against the officer at the gate, or a fellow constable who leaked an email giving his account of what had happened.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “We have considered all of the evidence in this case, including previously unseen, unedited CCTV footage from Downing Street, not referred to by the media.

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

Lawyers found a jury would be likely to decide that leaking the email was in the public interest.

Ms Saunders said: “This type of conduct raises issues in relation to the right to freedom of expression, including the right to freely impart and receive information, and these are important rights enshrined in our law.

“In all the circumstances of this case, we have concluded that a jury is likely to decide that it was in the public interest for the events at the gate to be made public and it therefore follows that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute any suspect in relation to this leak.”

She said that previously unseen CCTV evidence and a string of emails and other messages between police and members of the public had been scrutinised as part of the investigation, and information relating to 14 people – 10 police officers, three members of the public and a journalist – was considered.

Eight people, including five police constables and three members of the public, were arrested in the wake of the affair and released on police bail until this week.

Ms Saunders highlighted the conflicting accounts of what Mr Mitchell said. The gate officer claims he used the words: “You should know your f****** place, you don’t run this f****** government, you’re f****** plebs.”

However Mr Mitchell claimed he said: “I thought you guys were supposed to f******help us”.

Ms Saunders said: “We have been supplied with previously unseen and unedited footage of the incident from five different cameras. The CCTV footage does not determine the issue completely as it could be consistent with either the accounts of the officer on the gate or Mr Mitchell.

“It is clear from the footage that there was sufficient time for the words to have been said either as described by the gate officer or as described by Mr Mitchell, and this has been confirmed by an expert. The fact that an expert has confirmed what is possible does not of itself determine the issue.

“Our determination in relation to the incident also involved careful consideration of evidence concerning conduct and communications by officers and Mr Mitchell both before and after the incident, including the fact that Mr Mitchell’s account has varied since the incident.”

There was “information but no admissible evidence” suggesting that an officer’s partner had contacted the media about the row, adding the word “morons” to the account, but a charge of misconduct in public office cannot be brought because they are a member of the public, the CPS said.

Another unconnected member of the public sent an email to the chairman of the Conservative Party claiming to have witnessed and filmed the incident, and alleging that the word “pleb” was not used, but again prosecutors cannot bring a charge of misconduct in public office.

Charges of perverting the course of justice were also considered against two officers for statements they gave to the investigation, but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

A spokesman for the Police Federation said: “We note the charge announced today by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and await the outcome of the matter once the full criminal justice process has been completed.

“We welcome the decision by the CPS that there was insufficient evidence to show that the officer at the gate lied in his account and that there was insufficient evidence to show that Mr Mitchell was the victim of a conspiracy of misinformation.

“We have always been concerned by the selected information that has been put into the public domain and it is noteworthy that the CPS came to its conclusions after reviewing all the evidence, including unedited CCTV footage from Downing Street.”

Wallis is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on December 16.

 

Journalists

Graeme Brown
Regional Head of Business
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Cillian O’ Brien
Business Reporter
Jon Griffin
Business Reporter
Alison Jones
Features writer
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor