Giles Marshall 10.55am
At the time of Andrew Mitchell’s regrettable outburst of temper, I commented on the distinctly dubious behaviour of the police themselves. My concerns were that - once again - police records had allegedly been leaked to newspapers with impunity, and that the Police Federation was engaged in an unedifying witch-hunt against Mr Mitchell. It turns out that the affair may have been rather more sinister.
Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ programme reported that a key witness to the altercation had not in fact been present and was, moreover, a serving police officer rather than an ordinary member of the public.
The fact that this ghost witness’s version of events matched the report contained in the police logs - which was fully leaked to the Daily Telegraph - implies a conspiracy between more than one officer. The Police Federation’s iniquitous involvement, and their partial account of a meeting held between Mr Mitchell and West Midlands police officers, has further added to the sense of conspiracy.
The Met is now conducting its own investigation into what seems a thoroughly sordid affair. It is worth remembering that some of the sympathy for the police came because in the same week two police officers had been shot and killed in Manchester, reminding us of the perilous situation many dedicated policemen and women put themselves in on the public need.
It is also worth remembering that, but for the Manchester tragedy, we might have been a bit more focused on an earlier display of police cover-up and malicious leaking after Hillsborough.
The Police Federation launched an overtly political campaign to discredit a serving Cabinet minister because they disagree with the policies being pursued by that minister’s elected government. The Metropolitan Police failed to investigate why a police log was leaked to two newspapers, even though the Leveson Inquiry had already established an undue cosiness in the relationship between the police force and the press to the detriment of appropriate police confidentiality.
Channel 4’s programme - produced, by the way, in a statutorily regulated broadcast media - has raised serious questions for both the Met and the Police Federation.
If it is true that members of the Diplomatic Protection Squad have engaged in a slanderous conspiracy to remove a Cabinet minister, then heads absolutely must roll.
Mr Mitchell eventually resigned for his outburst, while denying consistently the alleged content of his outburst. He appears to have been a wronged and maligned man. More than one police officer should now be under threat of dismissal, with likely court actions as well, if we are to regain any sense that police integrity might be able to be restored.
As for the Police Federation, its appalling behaviour should render it redundant altogether. But there are questions too for the unregulated print media, who slavishly published the police version of events and gave little credence to Mr Mitchell’s. Not much sense there that a free media is engaging in the fearless investigative reporting that we are so constantly hearing about from bleating editors. Apparently, it takes the regulated broadcast media to do that job.
Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesmarshall