Troubling questions remain over Plebgate

Andrew Mitchell was done a terrible injustice. The Plebgate scandal still casts a long shadow. It is time the Police recognised that the business of law and order should not be politicised

Andrew Mitchell with a brave smile
Steven George-Hilley
On 28 November 2014 09:09

After two years of vitriolic debate, millions of pounds in legal fees and the trashing of multiple reputations, many will be glad to see the Plebgate saga’s final closure. Unfortunately for former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, that closure brings with it irreparable reputational damage and significant financial penalties, a sorry ending to his prestigious 27-year political career.

His supporters are rightly shocked at the judge’s decision to cast doubt upon his version of events. In his final ruling on the case, Mr Justice Mitting claimed that, “Pc Rowland is not the sort of man who would have had the wit, imagination or inclination to have made up what a senior politician had said to him in temper.”

This assertion was surprising given that Pc Rowland’s own Police log of the incident stated that several members of the public were present around the gate; they heard the altercation and were "visibly shocked."

CCTV footage from multiple camera angles around Downing Street clearly contradicted this claim. But colleagues leapt to Rowland’s defence saying that the bystanders were out of view of the camera, which makes one wonder how they heard the altercation at all.

In his official statement, after his High Court victory, PC Toby Rowland said that he had tried everything to avoid the case going to court. This may well be true, but many other people around Rowland went to extraordinary and suspicious lengths to publicise the incident and cause maximum political damage.

If Rowland’s account was watertight and honest, then why did his associates feel the need to leak the Police log to a national newspaper? Why did the Police not follow the correct professional procedure and ensure a complaint was made to authorities inside Number 10?

Why did Pc Keith Wallis feel the need to send false emails claiming to have witnessed the incident, when he was not even on duty that evening? His behavior was out of character to say the least. So, had anyone approached him and asked him to send the email?

Why did three Police Federation Officials feel the need to misrepresent their conversation with Andrew Mitchell? If they were genuinely interested in putting this matter to rest, then there was no need to claim he had not given a full account of his actions.

Nobody can know for sure what was said in that brief exchange, but there is clear evidence of an elaborate and politically-motivated campaign, orchestrated by multiple participants to bring down an elected official.

Whatever your views on Andrew Mitchell and his occasionally unfortunate mannerisms, it is nothing short of a tragedy that this incident has overshadowed an impressive career, particularly when he was International Development Secretary. His time in this post was marked by a series of incredibly successful initiatives across Africa and other parts of the developing world.

For the Police and the Police Federation, it is time they recognised that the business of law and order should not be politicised. They should also view the judge’s favourable ruling on Plebgate as a lucky escape, and not a victory.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator and tweets @StevenGeorgia

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