Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Police best in the world insists PM

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell resigned over the so-called plebgate affair

David Cameron has insisted that the British police are the best in the world despite his belief there had been "wrongdoing" over the so-called plebgate affair.

The Prime Minister insisted he was right to speak out as the row over the incident which triggered former chief whip Andrew Mitchell's resignation continued.

Mr Cameron's intervention followed suggestions officers gave misleading accounts of a meeting held with Mr Mitchell at the height of the row last year.

The deputy chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Deborah Glass publicly called for a misconduct panel to decide if three police officers gave a false account of discussions they had with the Tory MP, nearly a month after the original incident.

At Prime Minister's questions this week Mr Cameron said his Tory colleague was owed an apology and said the conduct of the officers, who were representing the forces of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands, was "not acceptable".

In an interview with BBC Radio Solent Mr Cameron defended his decision to speak out: " I still believe that we have the best police in the world in Britain, they are fantastically brave, they do a good job, they give great service.

"But when there is wrongdoing, as I believe there is in the case of what has happened with these police in the West Midlands, you have to speak up and say so."

The fallout from Ms Glass' intervention in the dispute continued with a furious response from police and crime commissioner (PCC) Bob Jones.

An email to senior officers from Ms Glass said a police investigation initially concluded that the Police Federation representatives had a case to answer for misconduct over the meeting with Mr Mitchell but later reversed its decision.

But Mr Jones, PCC for West Midlands, one of the forces entangled in the affair, said her email effectively suggests senior officers interfered with the report and has demanded an explanation from IPCC chairwoman Dame Anne Owers.

In a letter to Dame Anne, Mr Jones said he has received assurances from his chief constable that West Midlands Police only received one copy of the report, although it is West Mercia Police, a neighbouring force, that was responsible for the internal inquiry.

He said: "I would hope your further investigation into the assertion in Deborah Glass's letter, which has led to media speculation that senior officers interfered with the investigating officer's report, would show that this is a gross distortion of what actually took place."

He added: "If I was to make an analogy with the criminal justice process, the press release is akin to a police officer commenting after a trial that the accused was, despite being acquitted, guilty as hell."

Mr Jones went on: "Your deputy's actions have led to a position where the integrity and honesty of the investigating teams she was supervising have been vilified in Parliament and the media."

Warwickshire PCC Ron Ball requested a review of the West Mercia investigation in response to the assertion in the email from Ms Glass.

West Mercia chief constable David Shaw said: "I completely understand why PCC Ron Ball has requested a review into the West Mercia Police-led investigation.

"This work is currently ongoing to clarify the specific issues raised in the IPCC letter.

"Once this review has been completed a full and comprehensive account will be shared with Mr Ball."

Sutton Coldfield MP Mr Mitchell met local Police Federation representatives in an attempt to clear the air after he was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street ''plebs'' in a foul-mouthed rant as he was asked to cycle through a side gate on September 19 last year.

But the officers were accused of deliberately misrepresenting what the MP said during the meeting in his constituency office on October 12 last year when they gave interviews immediately afterwards.

The IPCC questioned the ''honesty and integrity'' of inspector Ken MacKaill, detective srgeant Stuart Hinton and sergeant Chris Jones and concluded that they should have faced a misconduct panel.

A transcript shows Mr Mitchell apologised for swearing at the police officers but denied using the word "plebs", while in comments made after the meeting Mr MacKaill claimed the former Tory chief whip refused to provide an account of the incident.

West Mercia Police conducted an internal investigation into claims the three officers were trying to discredit Mr Mitchell but concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.

The original incident is the subject of a separate Metropolitan Police investigation following claims that officers conspired against the politician.

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to bring criminal charges following Scotland Yard's £230,000-plus investigation, known as Operation Alice.

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

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