Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Mitchell welcomes Plebgate apology
Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell has welcomed an apology from three chief constables over a row that erupted in the wake of the Plebgate scandal.
Three officers at the centre of the dispute have remained defiant despite the leaders of their forces issuing public apologies and the renewed threat of disciplinary action.
Police Federation representatives Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones appeared before MPs yesterday and would apologise only for their haste in speaking to the media straight after the meeting in October last year.
But the chief constables of the three forces that they represent - Warwickshire, West Mercia and the West Midlands - have all apologised to Mr Mitchell.
The former Tory minister, who resigned from the Cabinet as the row over an altercation with police at the gates of Downing Street engulfed him last year, told the BBC: "I'm obviously very grateful to the three chief officers for the apology which they have given to me and my family.
"As they requested I will be meeting with them in due course."
The three Police Federation representatives told journalists that Mr Mitchell refused to tell them exactly what he said during a foul-mouthed confrontation with officers in Downing Street the previous month.
The three were later accused of giving a misleading account of the 45-minute meeting, which was recorded by the politician.
Mr Hinton told the Home Affairs Select Committee: "We showed poor judgment in speaking to the media immediately following the meeting with Mr Mitchell.
"I think we are all happy to take the criticism on the chin for that. What we should have done is given ourselves an opportunity to debrief the meeting."
He added: "We certainly didn't lie intentionally."
Mr Jones said he did not believe they had done anything wrong, while Mr MacKaill stood by the initial account of what happened in the meeting.
But the officers' chief constables struck a different tone in their appearance before the committee.
David Shaw from West Mercia told MPs he has written to Mr Mitchell to make a personal apology, and has asked for another chief constable to review a report that found the federation representatives had no case to answer for misconduct.
"It's a profound, unreserved apology for the impact that what has happened has had upon him," he said.
West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims told the committee he has also written to the former chief whip and would like to meet him in person.
Warwickshire Chief Constable Andy Parker said he was "embarrassed" that his officers had become involved in a heated anti-cuts campaign in the wake of the Plebgate incident.
"My officers got involved in a political campaign which was ill thought-through and has led to a lot of public confidence issues for us," he said.
"I would certainly like to apologise to Mr Mitchell because this added to the already big impact of the Plebgate campaign and it is embarrassing that my force was involved in the way it was."
The decision not to press ahead with misconduct charges against the officers following the meeting was challenged by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which said there were issues of ''honesty and integrity'' among the three representatives of the Police Federation.
The three men held a private meeting with Sutton Coldfield MP Mr Mitchell last October about claims that he had called officers guarding the Downing Street gates "plebs".
Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams, who conducted the internal investigation, told MPs he still believes the officers have a case to answer over accounts they gave of the meeting.
He said: "I did find a case to answer for misconduct and that's still my view."
Mr Mitchell met the three officers in his Sutton Coldfield constituency office on October 12 last year, after he was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street ''plebs'' in a rant as he was asked to cycle through a side gate on September 19.
The Tory MP said he wanted to meet Mr MacKaill, Det Sgt Hinton and Sgt Jones to ''clear the air''.
A secret recording made by Mr Mitchell shows that he 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.
Mr Reakes-Williams, who deals with professional standards for Warwickshire and West Mercia police, told MPs: "My view is that, taken as a whole, the comments made by the federation representatives did have the impact of misleading the public as to what happened in that meeting."
But he said for a charge of gross misconduct - which carries the possible sanction of dismissal - he would have to have been sure that the officers had gone to the Sutton Coldfield meeting with the "premeditated" intention of lying about Mr Mitchell, he said.
The IPCC's deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass told the Home Affairs Committee that she was "absolutely astonished" when a final report came back from the three forces recommending that the officers had no case to answer.
The three officers rejected any suggestion that they had plotted together to bring down Mr Mitchell.
"I absolutely refute that suggestion," said Mr MacKaill.
As the three officers concluded their evidence, Mr Vaz warned them that giving inaccurate evidence to the committee would amount to a contempt of Parliament, and added: "We have found your evidence most unsatisfactory."
After the marathon session Mr Vaz indicated a further three senior officers from the forces could be called to give evidence about a meeting which agreed there was no case to answer following the federation representatives' meeting with Mr Mitchell.