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Police officer 'gave misleading account of Plebgate meeting'

A police officer accused of giving a misleading account of a "Plebgate" meeting praised MP Andrew Mitchell for his "candour" before telling the media the politician had been evasive, a tribunal has heard.

Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and two other Police Federation representatives met the Tory MP at his constituency offices in October 2012, three weeks after Mr Mitchell was involved in a high-profile incident with Met Police officers in Downing Street.

Following the meeting, serving Warwickshire Police officer Mr Hinton made comments about what was said at that meeting in an interview on BBC Radio Five Live on October 13, which it is alleged were misleading.

A misconduct panel has been convened at the force headquarters to hear an allegation that the officer breached the force's professional standards of honesty, integrity and conduct.

Mr Hinton, who was secretary of the local Federation branch at the time, denies any wrong-doing.

A recording of the meeting with the Sutton Coldfield MP played to the tribunal heard that Mr Mitchell had opened the meeting with an apology saying he was "profoundly, deeply sorry".

Mr Hinton then asked him for his account of what he had said to officers at the gates of Downing Street.

The MP replied: "I did not say - and I give you my word - I did not call an officer a f****** pleb, and that you should know your f****** place."

Mr Mitchell also said: "I complied with the officer and picked up my bicycle and, you know, but I did say, you know, under my breath but audibly - in frustration, 'I thought you lot were supposed to f****** help us' - I did say that and it is for that I apologise."

Opening the case today, presenting officer Aaron Rathmell said that the next day, Mr Hinton appeared on BBC radio and commented: "He (Mr Mitchell) still won't say exactly what he did say, which suggests that the officer's account is more likely to be the accurate one."

During the interview he also backed a call for the then chief whip Mr Mitchell to resign.

Mr Rathmell said the police officer made these comments despite the MP giving what he described as a "positive" account of his exchange with Met officers on September 19 2012.

It was Mr Rathmell's case that Mr Hinton had seemed satisfied with the answers he heard in the meeting, telling Mr Mitchell: "I appreciate your candour," later telling him: "Everybody can have a bad day."

Mr Rathmell said: "The key controversy in this case surrounds exercising of judgment as to whether Sgt Hinton gave a misleading account regarding the meeting with Mr Mitchell, rather than facts or witnesses' statements being in dispute."

At the time, the Police Federation representatives were preparing to launch a campaign against Government budget cuts to policing.

The panel heard that before seeing the MP, Mr Hinton and his colleagues Inspector Ken Mackaill, of West Mercia, and Sgt Chris Jones, of West Midlands Police, were advised by their media strategist to use the meeting as "a springboard" for that campaign.

If the case is found to amount to gross misconduct, Mr Hinton could be sacked.

The hearing at Leek Wootton, near Warwick, which has been scheduled for up to three days, continues.

A judge ruled in 2014 that the MP probably did call Met officer PC Toby Rowland a "pleb" after the politician was stopped from riding his bicycle through the vehicle gate in Downing Street.


From Belfast Telegraph