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Officer defiant in plebgate fallout

A police officer has remained defiant over his role in the plebgate row as he refused to apologise for distress caused to former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

Sergeant Chris Jones told the Home Affairs Select Committee he regretted distress caused in the aftermath of the original incident, in which Mr Mitchell was accused of launching a foul-mouthed rant at officers outside Downing Street, but fell short of offering an apology.

However, fellow officer Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton did apologise to Mr Mitchell earlier in the hearing.

Along with Inspector Ken MacKaill, the Police Federation representatives were previously accused of attempting to discredit Mr Mitchell after meeting him in October last year.

The Conservative MP met the three representatives at his Sutton Coldfield constituency office in a bid to clear the air after the Downing Street incident the previous month.

Today Mr Hinton and Mr Jones were hauled back before MPs over apparent inaccuracies in the evidence they gave during a session on October 23.

Despite their public apologies for misleading the committee over details in their evidence, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced it is to investigate both men.

They and Mr MacKaill are already facing potential misconduct proceedings over the accounts they gave of the meeting with the former chief whip.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr Hinton and Mr Jones told the committee: "Our position so far as our meeting with Mr Mitchell is concerned has not changed.

"While the committee appears to believe, however, that we are indifferent to Mr Mitchell's predicament, and the distress caused to him and his family since the original incident in Downing Street, we are not.

"Each of us fully recognises and regrets the fact that such distress has been caused.

"We share the belief that the investigation into the original incident in Downing Street has already taken a disproportionate period of time and should be resolved in the interests of all parties without delay."

Following Mr Hinton's evidence, committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "That is a different position to the position given to the committee on the last occasion.

"When you talked about an apology to Mr Mitchell you said it was a general apology to all those who had been affected.

"You are telling the committee now that you specifically wish to apologise to Mr Mitchell and his family for the distress caused?"

Mr Hinton replied: "For the distress caused. I can't apologise for something that I haven't done and there are other accusations that I totally refute."

Mr Jones remained defiant, refusing to apologise to Mr Mitchell.

He told the committee: "I can't apologise for something that I haven't done, but I do regret the disproportionate distress it has caused his family and I would urge that the CPS report and the investigation into this matter is concluded as quickly as possible."

Mr Vaz asked him: "You don't want to apologise for any distress?"

Refusing to do so, he replied: "At the moment."

The committee said Mr Hinton had denied referring to Home Secretary Theresa May as "that woman" during the meeting with Mr Mitchell, but now accepts he did use those words.

He said: "I inadvertently gave an inaccurate answer to the committee on October 23. There was no intention to mislead the committee. I repeat my unqualified apology to the committee for this inaccuracy."

Mr Jones told the committee he had misunderstood a question about whether any of the officers had faced disciplinary action in the past, but insisted he did not believe he had misled MPs.

"I do not believe that my answers misled the committee. If however I failed to recognise the meaning of the questions I was asked then I apologise."

He did not tell the committee that he had faced 13 complaints in the past, two of which resulted in management advice being given.

They involved one claim involving use of force when he pushed someone in the back while off-duty, and another about performance of duties when he submitted the wrong CCTV video as an exhibit.

IPCC Dame Anne Owers later told the committee the police watchdog will hold its own investigation into the claims that the two officers gave misleading evidence to the committee.

She said that the IPCC inquiry into the original Sutton Coldfield dispute and the latest claims over evidence should be finished by Christmas.

"We are going to wrap all of this up together. The question of what the officers did or didn't say in front of this committee is a relatively simple matter to deal with.

"We anticipate that we will be able to complete both investigations this side of Christmas", she said.


From Belfast Telegraph