Andrew Mitchell – victim of a police stitch-up?

Andrew MitchellThat’s the heavy implication of Michael Crick’s revelations on Channel 4 News last night.

The bare facts appear to be that, when told the police wouldn’t open the gates at Downing Street to allow him to ride his bike through, then Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell swore at them, saying “I thought you guys were supposed to f****** help us”, a sentence he admits uttering in exasperation. He then cycled off and thought no more of it, until contacted by Downing Street and told The Sun was about to run a front page splash alleging a serious altercation with the police.

Andrew Mitchell has always denied calling the police “f****** plebs”, the toxic phrase which led to his forced resignation. Michael Crick’s report, which includes the first broadcast CCTV footage of the incident, does not prove Andrew Mitchell didn’t say that. But it does cast huge doubt on the Metropolitan police’s claims, including the official police log of the incident — they’ll now have to show they didn’t conspire to pervert the course of natural justice.

Another person who doesn’t emerge with much credit is Sir Jeremy Heywood, who was tasked by the Prime Minister with investigating an email sent to Tory deputy chief whip John Randall, supposedly from an eyewitness, which corroborated the police’s version of events. The eyewitness, who is a serving police officer, now denies he was there at all.

There have been many victims of police cover-ups over the years — the recent Hillsborough revelations are a prime example. It is one reason why liberals are inclined to be sceptical when the police demand wider powers which infringe on our civil liberties.

Relatively speaking, the apparent stitching up of Andrew Mitchell is small beer: a personal tragedy for him, but at least no-one died. Yet it is a glaring example of the potential for even (generally) trusted agents of the state such as the police to — it appears — abuse their power.

As Mr Mitchell says, “It has shaken my lifelong support and confidence in the police.” Some of us have had it shaken without needing to experience it personally. Of course the vast majority of the police do an incredibly difficult job very well; but we don’t need to sign blank cheques to show our support for that role.

You can watch Michael Crick’s 20 minute report here:

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • And, of course, if they can take down a Cabinet Minister despite people being tasked to look into it then what can they do to a normal person, especially one who might not have a spotless past?

  • They can kill them in the street Thomas.

  • @ Thomas Long

    I agree, and our court systems often rely on the word of the police to function. I am not convinced the Met commissioner has reacted strongly enough yet.

    On a side point Tory MPs should be wary of rushing to defend Mitchel, he was rude to the police man on the gate who was just doing his job. The rumor of Thatchers behavior is that she would rip in to her ministers but was very polite to Staff, I can’t see her tolerating a Cabinate minister swearing at the guy on the gate protecting her. If they idolise their former leaders they ought to live up to their standards.

  • michael coughtrey 19th Dec '12 - 11:33am

    Huge row when politician believes he has been a victim of police fabrication of evidence, complet cover up when member of the public proves he not only did not stab a police officer, he did not even hold a large kitchen knife.

  • Mitchell never confirmed exactly what he said and refused to challenge the officers on duty formally leaving the impression that whatever he said was unsavory enough to put his position at risk. He admits swearing at the Police Officers, which his fellow hang ’em, flog ’em Tories feel should lead to arrest. In short I feel his behavior was woefully short of that to be expected from a Cabinet Minister towards those paid to protect him.

    None of which changes the fact that if the Police lied they should be held to account, if there was a conspiracy serious criminal charges should follow. I am less convinced with the challenge to the gate officers log, as the CCTV is soundless and in light of Mitchell’s inability to state exactly what was said, the actual words spoken have still only been provided by one party to the conversation. There was also the issue of “several” members of the public. I counted at least three who could have been close enough to hear (depending on the volume of the argument). I guess that could be argued as being several ???

    In short this whole issue could and should have been resolved at the time, and only Mitchell has himself to blame for not challenging the Police formally if, as he believes, they lied on the log.

  • I have herard it argued that Andrew Mitchell has ‘got away with it’, assuming that he did and said what is alleged. He has not been helpful in saying what he did say.

    He has not had to resign as an MP, and remainds in a well-paid, prestigious job.

  • paul barker 19th Dec '12 - 1:54pm

    The polce are known for their habit of closing ranks, even around officers who have clearly done wrong but Im not sure thats enough explanation in this case.
    The question that should always be asked is “who gained from this ?” The obvious gainers were the labour party; I think we need to be absolutely sure that only the police were involved in any conspiracy.

  • “The question that should always be asked is “who gained from this ?” The obvious gainers were the labour party; I think we need to be absolutely sure that only the police were involved in any conspiracy.”

    Perhaps it would be easier if you gave us a list of the things that you don’t think the Labour Party is to blame for …

  • Is that the sound of the worlds smallest violin?

  • Seriously, though, before people go too far in the direction of politically motivated conspiracy theories, I think it’s worth bearing in mind that Mitchell allegedly told one of the officers concerned “I’ll have your ****ing job for this”. Isn’t it more plausible that this was an effort to back up an officer whose job had been threatened, rather than some Machiavellian plot to “take down a Cabinet Minister”?

  • Martin Lowe 19th Dec '12 - 9:25pm

    Mitchell first said that he didn’t swear at the police officers; later, he admitted he did.

    That’s good enough grounds for him to lose his job.

  • What I do not understand is,when it happened,most people said,let us see the CCTV footage.I would think that Cameron would want to see it,and had the power to do so.If not he,had other high up Tories watched it.Why did they not see something amiss if they had seen it..And why has it taken so long to produce.
    I think there are still a lot of questions to be asked,from both sides.

  • Nick Russell 20th Dec '12 - 9:33am

    The police log suggests Mitchell indulged in an extensive angry rant at the police. If he had let go as much as the log says he did, it would be evident on the CCTV, because you would see the body language of rage, ranting and a row. It isn’t there, he just walks his bike out.

    As a cyclist, I’ve always wanted to know why the police wouldn’t open the main gate for a Cabinet minister? Why should a cycling minister have to dismount and walk through a side gate, rather than go through quickly on wheels as a car does? In other countries, the emphasis would be on keeping the minister moving fast enough to stop him becoming a sniper’s target.

  • @Nick Russell.

    “the emphasis would be on keeping the minister moving fast enough to stop him becoming a sniper’s target.”

    I doubt things are that bad in this country.The USA has a history of shooting politicians.But,thankfully not the UK.Airey Neave was killed by a IRA explosion,and there was the Brighton bombing.But most of the trouble from that era has gone.

  • Nick Russell 20th Dec '12 - 11:52am

    @P Benson
    Indeed. I did say “in other countries”.
    So it appears that the MPS goal in having/staffing the gates is to protect the property; the people who form the government are an inconvenience in that task.

    I think that’s nonsense. The DPG are there to protect and assist the ministers.

  • @Nick Russell
    “So it appears that the MPS goal in having/staffing the gates is to protect the property; the people who form the government are an inconvenience in that task.”

    Sorry but I don’t follow your logic here. In terms of security, every time the gates are open (even partially) there is a weakness exposed. For example a vehicle packed with explosives would detonate at the gate when they are closed rather than inside Downing Street itself. If the security plan dictates they are not opened for cyclists then the police should follow this. It is apparent that not all had in the past , but imagine being the officer that allowed a breach, I wonder what their career path would be after that…

    As for the sniper issue, if you allow a minister to cycle then they are already exposed whichever gate they use.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Dec '12 - 5:21pm

    Do any others on here remember the days when you could go and have your photo taken on the steps of number 10?

    What intrigues me is how, if the events were so completely other than as described in the ‘police account’, why did Andrew Mitchell let it go for so long .

  • Mitchell…. “Now I have had a taste of how extraordinarily powerless an individual is when trapped between the pincers of the police on one side and the press on the other. If this can happen to a senior government minister, then what chance does a youth in Brixton or Handsworth have?

    I wonder how long, if and when Mitchell is re-instated, his concerns for the young in Brixton, etc. will last.

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