An internal investigation by West Mercia Police into whether three officers lied about Birmingham MP Andrew Mitchell during the “plebgate” row did conclude that they may be guilty of misconduct, it has emerged.

Midland police forces are at odds with MPs and the Government after an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found that three Police Federation representatives, who were also serving officers, attempted to discredit the MP as he battled to save his career.

The Police and Crime Commissioners for West Midlands Police, West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police have rejected the IPCC findings – with Bob Jones, the Commissioner for the West Midlands force, demanding that the IPCC be abolished.

And they have attacked the IPCC for overturning the results of an internal investigation by West Mercia Police, which concluded: “We do not believe that a case of Gross Misconduct or Misconduct is made out”.

But it has now emerged that the inquiry by the West Mercia force, which serves Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, did initially conclude that there was a case to answer.

This is revealed in a letter from Deborah Glass, the Deputy Chair of the IPCC, to Ron Ball, Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire.

She writes: “I note that in the first draft report submitted to the IPCC in July the senior investigating officer did in fact conclude there was a case to answer for misconduct, although the final report, submitted in August, did not.”


(from left) Inspector Ken MacKaill, Sergeant Chris Jones and Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton speaking to
the media after the meeting with Andrew Mitchell MP. The IPCC said they attempted to ‘discredit the MP’
(from left) Inspector Ken MacKaill, Sergeant Chris Jones and Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton speaking to the media after the meeting with Andrew Mitchell MP. The IPCC said they attempted to ‘discredit the MP’

 

It is unclear why the finding of the senior investigating officer was changed.

The latest twist will place even more pressure on the three forces to explain why they failed to take disciplinary action against the officers concerned.

The chief constable of West Mercia Police has been summoned to Parliament to explain himself to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, and David Cameron has demanded that police apologise to Mr Mitchell.

But while the row has placed the police in the spotlight it’s another victory in Mr Mitchell’s battle to clear his name over reports that he called officers guarding Downing Street “plebs” in a foul-mouthed rant as he was asked to cycle through the main gates on September 19 last year.

The claims cost him his Cabinet job as Chief Whip – but evidence including CCTV footage of the incident suggest that the allegations were untrue.

And it has emerged that a police officer who was not even present at the scene wrote a letter to one of Mr Mitchell’s Government colleagues claiming that he was a member of the public who witnessed the incident.

The report by the IPCC did not look at the incident itself but instead focused on a meeting between the MP and three representatives of the Police Federation at Mr Mitchell’s constituency office in Sutton Coldfield last October.

They were Inspector Ken MacKaill of West Mercia Police, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton of Warwickshire Police and Sergeant Chris Jones of West Midlands Police.

After the meeting, officers gave interviews to the media suggesting that the MP had refused to explain what he had actually said to the Downing Street officers.

But a transcript of the meeting shows that he did repeatedly deny using the word “pleb” or anything similar.

IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass said the three officers had misrepresented Mr Mitchell in an attempt to help the Federation’s campaign against government cuts to police funding.

She said in a report: “In my view, the evidence is such that a panel should determine whether the three officers gave a false account of the meeting in a deliberate attempt to support their Metropolitan Police Service colleague and discredit Mr Mitchell, in pursuit of a wider agenda. In my opinion the evidence and the surrounding circumstances do give an indication of an issue of honesty and integrity and/or discreditable conduct, not merely naïve or poor professional judgment.”

Welcoming the finding, Mr Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield) said the Police Federation had asked him for a “private” meeting to “clear the air” – but then used the event for political purposes.

He said: “The meeting was demonstrably held under false pretences and its outcome, a call for my resignation, was almost certainly pre-determined. The inconvenient truth that I gave a full explanation of what happened was not allowed to get in the way of that agenda.”

The Prime Minister, also said police should apologise. He told the Commons: “What’s being discussed here is the fact that... the former chief whip had a meeting with Police Federation officers in his committee where he gave a full account of what had happened, they left that meeting and claimed he had given them no account at all.”

Mr Cameron added: “He is owed an apology, the conduct of these officers was not acceptable.”

But West Midlands police commissioner Bob Jones said Ms Glass’s comments had been “completely unjustified” and “very inappropriate”, adding: “I do think the IPCC should be abolished and moved to a genuinely independent body that will look after the wider public interest.”

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether or not to bring criminal charges following Scotland Yard’s £230,000-plus investigation into the “plebgate” affair.

Eight people including five police officers arrested under Operation Alice were re-bailed.