As published in The Times:
Scotland Yard to Scrutinise Leak of Confidential Plebgate e-mail
The Metropolitan Police is considering a leak inquiry into Plebgate disclosures in The Times to “ascertain what, if any, offences may have been committed”.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Scotland Yard Commissioner, said that an e-mail published yesterday, which revealed that Andrew Mitchell had an encounter with Downing Street officers the night before the Plebgate incident, was a confidential document.
The leak of the original police log, outlining the altercation with the former Chief Whip when he wanted to cycle through the main gate, led to a series of arrests. However, the Crown Prosecution Service has previously concluded that a jury would probably decide that the leak last November was in the public interest.
Sir Bernard said that circumstances surrounding the publication of the latest e-mail would be assessed nonetheless, as “we have to be concerned about the confidentiality of our systems”.
The e-mail revealed that officers had asked for advice on how to handle Mr Mitchell’s repeated demands to be allowed to cycle through the main gate, rather than a side entrance. A day before a police constable claims that Mr Mitchell called him a “f**king pleb”, the MP was said to be adamant that he would go through the gate.
The Met said last night that officers in Operation Alice, which investigated the original leaks and discovered that a constable had fabricated a witness account of the event, would look into the latest e-mail.
Its statement read: “The Metropolitan Police is reviewing the Times article and the e-mail contained within it to ascertain what, if any, offences may have been committed. Following this, a decision will be made regarding the most appropriate course of action.”
David Davis, a Conservative MP and close ally of Mr Mitchell, said yesterday that he had asked Sir Bernard for a full leak inquiry into the e-mail, which showed that the confrontation was premeditated by officers who wanted their seniors to support their case.
He claimed that it was written to set up circumstances that would lead to the confrontation that sparked the scandal and it “undermines the police case”.
His comments came after PC Ian Richardson, one of four officers at the gate when the altercation occurred, insisted that Mr Mitchell did use the word plebs. PC Richardson was the first person to speak to PC Toby Rowland after the incident and backed his colleague’s account, although he did not actually hear the exchange.
PC Richardson also criticised the Police Federation for hijacking what he said was a minor incident and using it for political gain.
The federation has been criticised since the Plebgate affair and was the subject of a parliamentary debate over reform yesterday.
Mr Davis told the Commons that ministers should seize some of the federation’s assets, including its lavish headquarters, if it refused to change.
The former Shadow Home Secretary urged the Government to set an ultimatum for the police staff association, which represents 125,000 rank-and-file officers, to implement changes. Mr Davis also said the Police Federation’s cash reserves gave it an unfair advantage in legal battles with those, like Mr Mitchell, who complained about its activities.
Last month Sir David Normington, the former Home Office Permanent Secretary, published a blueprint for the reform of the organisation.
Sir Bernard echoed its calls for “radical reform” yesterday and said the federation should be smaller and not given as much public funding. “They certainly should not be involved in political campaigns,” he said.
As published in The Daily Mail
POLICE UNION CHIEFS ACCUSED OF CLAIMING UP TO £5M IN PERKS
POLICE union bosses may have claimed up to £5million in expenses for booze, food and other unjustified’ perks, it was claimed last night.
Former shadow home secretary David Davis cited the astonishing’ figure as he condemned the embattled Police Federation for behaving like the worst trade unions from the 1970s.
As pressure mounted on the Federation, the chairman of a powerful committee of MPs announced a new inquiry into its activities. Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said he was deeply concerned’ and would investigate.
Senior Federation figures now face being hauled before MPs and called on to account for their organisation’s activities. Yesterday MPs from both sides of the House queued up to condemn the Federation for failing both to live up to its founding ideals and act in the public interest.
Tory Mr Davis told a backbench debate the Federation had become bloated and sclerotic’ and accused it of wasting its members’ and taxpayers’ money.
He pointed to a figure in Federation accounts which suggested it had set aside £2million to cover the potential outcome of a dispute with the taxman.
Mr Davis said this could mean that up to £5million of expenses claims had been made on perks’ and paid for from ordinary officers’ Federation subscriptions. He also attacked the Federation for failing to publish in full details of expenses spending by senior representatives.
The expenses accusation is a further blow to the organisation’s heavily damaged reputation.
This week a police officer’s widow, PC Kate Parker, accused Federation officials of using corporate credit cards to party drunkenly at a memorial day for fallen officers.
On Sunday, it emerged that whistleblower Fiona McElroy had been sacked from the Federation after challenging its spending culture.
The Federation first came under close scrutiny last month following a damning review by former Home Office mandarin Sir David Normington, who revealed details of millions of pounds hidden in secret No 2′ accounts held by local Federation offices.
During the debate, Mr Davis also attacked the Federation for spending £26million on its headquarters, a figure he said was extravagant enough to do justice to one of the London merchant banks at the height of the City excesses’.
Federation chairman Steve Williams said last night he accepted that many areas need urgent reform and was committed to delivering it. Of the expenses spending, a Federation spokesman said: This matter relates to an HMRC compliance check with which we are co-operating fully.’
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said yesterday that there was a need for radical reform’ of the Federation.
÷ Home Secretary Theresa May has accepted an arbitration tribunal’s rejection of the notion of compulsory sackings for police officers, who cannot be made redundant under long-standing rules. But she said ministers and the police should continue to consider the reform.
I’M THE CHIEF WHIP, MITCHELL TOLD POLICE’
ANDREW Mitchell told police I am the Government Chief Whip’ in the days leading up to the Plebgate confrontation, according to a leaked Scotland Yard email.
The MP is said to have made the comment as he insisted on cycling through the main gates of Downing Street. This was a breach of security rules.
The message was written on 19 September 2012 by an officer seeking advice from superiors on how to handle his demands.
It said Mr Mitchell keeps requesting to leave Downing Street via the main vehicle gates’ and was adamant he WAS GOING THROUGH THOSE GATES’.
Mr Mitchell quit the Cabinet the next month after it was reported he swore and called officers plebs’ when they insisted he use a side gate. He has always denied using the word although admits swearing.
Now the email obtained by The Times suggests that Mr Mitchell had previous run-ins with police over the issue.
The unnamed author said he previously agreed to let the MP out the main gate to avoid embarrassment when it was quiet.
But he wanted to know if police would be backed up if they stood their ground’. In response to the leak, Mr Mitchell said he cycled through the main gate many times.
As published in The Guardian:
May postpones compulsory redundancies plan for police
The power to make police officers compulsorily redundant will not be introduced “at this time”, the home secretary, Theresa May, has announced in a move that will ease some of the tension between government ministers and officers.
The home secretary made clear that she had not dropped completely her intention to end the “job for life” culture of the police by introducing the power for chief constables to make officers compulsorily redundant.
“This remains a reform that I believe government and the police should continue to consider,” she said. But in the meantime, she will accept the recommendation from the police arbitration tribunal that it does not go ahead for now.
Steve Williams, the Police Federation chairman, said the move was welcome news to police officers. “It is right that police officers who are already undergoing the largest wave of reforms in the history of British policing will not face the prospect of compulsory severance,” he said.
Her announcement coincided with a Commons debate in which backbench MPs demanded the Police Federation, which represents 127,000 officers in England and Wales, implements a radical series of reforms, plus the sale of its £26m “luxury” Leatherhead headquarters, or face government imposition of change.
The Commons home affairs select committee announced that it is to launch an inquiry into the federation which will look particularly at its finances and the use of well-funded legal actions against those who complain about the actions of individual officers.
David Davis, the former Tory shadow home secretary, accused officials of the “bloated and sclerotic” Police Federation of exhibiting “the worst characteristics of the worst trade unions” that were last seen in the 1970s.
He told the Commons that it was profligate in spending its money on grace-and-favour apartments and bar bills, and was badly governed, inefficient and wasteful.
“And it behaves in a manner which sometimes brings the police forces into disrepute by pursuing personal and political vendettas against prominent public persons and bodies and legal actions against private citizens and sometimes even the victims of crime,” said Davis.
The Commons backbench debate was designed to increase the pressure on the federation to implement the findings of the inquiry by Sir David Normington, which found it was in need of reform “from top to bottom” including an end to the “culture of secrecy” surrounding £35m of funds held in local branch accounts.
As reported by The Press Association:
EMAIL ‘SHOWS PLEBGATE PREMEDITATED’
A leaked police email written the night before the “plebgate” incident shows the confrontation was premeditated by officers who wanted their seniors to support their case, a close ally of former chief whip Andrew Mitchell has said.
Senior Tory MP David Davis said the email, which reveals complaints about Mr Mitchell’s apparent insistence on cycling through the Downing Street gates, was written to set up circumstances which would lead to the confrontation that sparked the scandal.
The email, obtained by the Times, was written by a constable seeking advice from his superiors on how to handle Mr Mitchell’s demands. The officer was said to have complained that Mr Mitchell “keeps requesting to leave Downing Street via the main vehicle gates” and was “adamant he WAS GOING THROUGH THOSE GATES”.
It was written on September 19, the night before the plebgate incident, and suggests that Mr Mitchell had previous disagreements with officers over the issue.
Mr Davis claimed the email was written four hours after an incident involving Mr Mitchell which showed it was designed to set up a future public confrontation
He said the email “undermines the police case” and backs up claims made by an anonymous whistleblower that the dispute was premeditated.
Mr Davis said most people would have asked their seniors to have a conversation with Mr Mitchell about the issue but the email instead ensured that those seniors would support police officers involved in any dispute.
Former Tory leadership candidate Mr Davis also bemoaned the “incredibly spun” confidential email being leaked and revealed he had asked Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe for a full inquiry into the leak.
In a Commons debate on the Police Federation, Mr Davis said: “I do not want to widen this into a rerun of the Mitchell case, but let me say a couple of things about this.
“The House knows full well that I didn’t really approve of the Leveson process and I’m a believer in a free press and very strongly so.
“But even I am astonished that after Leveson we see yet again a police force leaking a confidential document which actually the victim in this, Mr Mitchell, has not had access to, leaking it in an incredibly spun way.
“First off, I expect the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to have a proper leak inquiry into that and I’ve told him that this morning.
“The second point I’d make is the astonishing interpretation put upon the leak that was given.
“Because what this leak showed was that an officer, four hours after stopping Mr Mitchell, or attempting to stop Mr Mitchell going through the main gates of Downing Street – four hours afterwards, so not in a panic, not in a rush but in a premeditated way – calling up or writing to his seniors, not to say ‘we have a security issue here, would somebody please have a conversation with Mr Mitchell to make sure that he understands that we can’t let him through’ – which would be the proper thing, which I think any of us would have done – but to set up a circumstance where it would be resolved by a public confrontation at the front gate, ensuring that his seniors support him in doing that which if anything actually reinforces the story we were told by an anonymous whistleblower that this was a premeditated action.
“So I think today’s press coverage was not a very good reflection of the police in two ways – it undermined their main case but also it is something they simply should not have done under these circumstances.”
Mr Mitchell was forced to resign last year after it was reported that he had repeatedly sworn at officers and called them “plebs” after they insisted he wheeled his bicycle through a side gate – a claim he has always denied.
Evidence subsequently emerged casting doubt on the police version and last week a serving officer was jailed for fabricating an account of the incident.
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said he felt Mr Mitchell and his family had gone through a “terrible ordeal”.
“I believe he has been vindicated in what has happened to him because of the fact that 11 of those involved in the case have now become the subject of misconduct hearings and one has gone to prison,” Mr Vaz said.
“For those of us who have been around for a long time, you think if this could happen to a serving Cabinet minister, what hope for one of our constituents?
“I say this about what he has done – he has done the House and the public a great service from a position of power that he holds as an elected MP, quite different to someone else perhaps in Leicester or another part of this country.
“It is important a line is drawn and people move in for the sake of himself and his family and, indeed, the reputation of the police as a whole.”
Mr Vaz said his committee would look into the impact of the Normington report (on Police Federation reform), adding he wanted to focus on money held by regional branches of the the federation.
He said further concerns were highlighted by the apparent lack of central awareness of the numbers and identities of federation members.
Labour MP David Lammy (Tottenham) said he enjoyed spending time with police officers in London and beyond through a parliamentary scheme.
He told MPs: “Overwhelmingly it has confirmed my childhood belief that began at the age of about nine, when I said to my parents, ‘I want to be a police officer’, that the men and women who serve in our police forces across this country do a fantastic job.”
But he said the events surrounding Mr Mitchell had demonstrated problems in some parts of the police that urgently needed to have light shone on them.
He said: “All of us have had the privilege to travel to countries where corruption is endemic in the police force … we all understand in a growing democracy, and certainly one such as ours, how we treat the most vulnerable, how we treat the areas of our life where light often doesn’t shine, is an indication of our democracy itself.
“Because it is the job of the police to deal with, fortunately for our country, a small criminal minority … the light has often not shone and certain practices have grown up.
“Many of us have watched in this country as cases involving minorities have often been overlooked and the truth is that there are many cases … where there have been concerns about the federation and about a closed shop particularly in relation to getting at the truth.
“When you see three officers so blatantly tell mistruths, so blatantly refuse to apologise about a Cabinet minister in a country such as this, that must tell you something about a culture of impunity that has become endemic in the system.
“It must say something about the necessary reform that must now come.”
Mr Mitchell was sat in the Commons listening to the debate, although he did not make a speech.
Conservative Michael Ellis (Northampton North), a barrister in criminal law for 15 years, said public trust in police was at its lowest ever level, adding: “And in large measure it is due to the disgraceful misconduct of the leadership and previous leadership within the national Police Federation.”
He said regional branches of the federation did a good job, but the “egregious examples” needed to be looked at and addressed before they cause even greater damage to the country’s reputation.
Turning to Mr Mitchell’s case, Mr Ellis said an apology was still due.
He said: “If what happened to (Mr Mitchell) happened in those circumstances, in such a location, to such a person, what hope is there for one of my constituents or any of our constituents without that position, without that authority, without those resources to defend themselves?”
The Home Affairs Select Committee member said he agreed with Mr Vaz that Mr Mitchell had been “entirely vindicated”.
Mr Ellis said: “(Mr Mitchell) has already received an apology and rightly so from several chief constables, I understand.
“But the fact there are several police officers facing internal misconduct or gross misconduct matters and one has gone to prison, I am appalled, as I know the House will be, that the federation is funding litigation even now, which seeks to keep this alive.”
Mr Vaz recalled that officers from West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands had a chance to draw a line under Mr Mitchell’s case when they appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee.
He asked Mr Ellis: “Even at this late stage do you not agree this is something that could be done in order to bring that whole sorry episode to a conclusion?”
Mr Ellis replied: “The fact is an apology is still due and you are quite right that their conduct and their appearance before the committee… was an embarrassment to the Police Federation.”
Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) expressed concern about the findings of the Normington report, which suggested a level of police corruption normally seen in “third world countries”.
Describing the report as “stunning” and “enormously damning”, he told MPs: “But what concerns me most is the constitutional aspect of this, because we know that the Police Federation conspired, lied and leaked to remove a Cabinet Minister from office.”
He said all the evidence pointed to the police “conspiring to bring down a Cabinet Minister”.
He added: “Now that is what happens in third world countries, where the democratic rights of people are overtaken by the forces of law and order who intervene to have the type of government they want, rather than the type of government that the people want.
“It is such a dangerous position to have got into, where a body that has these particular protections, this place in the state, is able to abuse them to undermine the very constitution that gives them those powers.”
Police Minister Damian Green said: “It’s clear these issues have caused widespread concern about police integrity and they demonstrate that unless all officers operate to the highest standards of integrity, policing risks forfeiting public trust.
“The court has now decided on the appropriate sentence for the criminal conduct of Pc Keith Wallis, the IPCC has issued a statement its investigation has provided the evidence to support gross misconduct proceedings against five officers, including Pc Wallis.
“It will be for the Metropolitan Police Service disciplinary panel to decide the culpability of the officers involved. The Home Office is also currently considering changes to the whole police disciplinary system and in addition the IPCC is currently independently investigating allegations three Police Federation officers from West Mercia, West Midlands and Warwickshire Police gave false accounts of their meeting with Mr Mitchell on October 12 2012 in an attempt to discredit him.
“As this investigation is on going it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.”
As reported by The Press Association:
POLICE FEDERATION ULTIMATUM SOUGHT
Ministers should give the body that represents rank-and-file police officers an ultimatum to implement the recommendations of a scathing report or face Government intervention, a senior Tory MP has said.
David Davis said the Police Federation should put in place the recommendations of an RSA review which raised questions over an estimated £95 million it holds in reserves and assets.
The review found the federation had centrally held reserves at £29.5 million and reserves held by branch boards stood at around £35 million.
There was also another estimated £30 million in separate accounts, details of which have not been given to the national heads of the organisation.
Sir David Normington, chair of the review panel, recommended that subscription rates should be cut by 25% in 2015, subsidised by central reserves, in a bid to hand back some of the money to members.
Mr Davis said that unless the federation did this before its elections later this year, the Government should intervene and make it implement “Normington plus”, which would include selling off its £26 million headquarters in Leatherhead, centralising its money and giving members back the money the federation had “inappropriately used”.
He also criticised the federation for wasting money, being badly governed and bringing police forces into disrepute by pursuing personal and political vendettas against public people, private citizens and sometimes the victims of crime.
Mr Davis told a Commons debate on the Normington report: “There are many criticisms to be levelled at the federation as it is today.
“These include that the federation is inefficient and wasteful, with duplication of tasks and structures.
“It’s profligate, spending its member’s money on grace and favour flats and huge bar bills.
“It’s badly governed with no apparent strong leadership to guarantee direction and stability.
“And it behaves in a manner which sometimes brings the police forces into disrepute by pursuing personal and political vendettas against prominent public persons and bodies and legal actions against private citizens and sometimes even the victims of crime.”
Turning to police minister Damian Green, he said: “I’d ask you to give the federation two ultimatums.
“Number one – they should immediately sign up to recommendation one, that is accepting the revised core purpose to act in the public interest with public accountability alongside accountability to their own members.
“Point two – they should accept all of the other recommendations of Normington before their triennial elections this year, before they lock in place a whole set of officers for another three years.
“If they don’t do that then the Government I think is properly authorised to intervene.
“And in my view, if it does that, what the Government should do is Normington plus.
“It should put in place all of the Normington proposals but in addition it should act to deal with the profligacy and misuse of public and members’ money and that means I’m afraid selling Leatherhead, centralising the money and giving back to the members the funds that the Federation has inappropriately used in the last several years – that would be about £500 a member and that would still leave a viable federation.
“That is how we can make the Police Federation serve their members but equally important serve the public of the nation that their members are there to uphold.”
Shadow police minister David Hanson said: “Reform is important, we do need to have professionalism and standards of officers. We do need to have registration of a core professionalism by officers.
“We do need to have the potential to withdraw that registration if officers transgress – as they have done on occasions, such as with (Mr Mitchell) and the officer who is now currently serving a prison sentence for his actions.
“I think particularly it is important we have the relationship between the media and the police improved and all contact between media and police are recorded with the potential for transgressions accordingly.”
Police Minister Damian Green said: “What led to the review are the significant concerns that have come up about the transparency and integrity of the Police Federation and those who act on its behalf.
“It is important that Police Federation can address those issues and make sure it acts in the interests of its membership and can command the confidence of the public.
“The report is thoughtful, comprehensive, it’s well evidenced and it is very insightful on the issues the federation faces – and I think considered in the solutions it recommends. We all agree with Sir David the federation must operate with openness and integrity.
“We are now at the stage of seeing how the federation responds… those discussions are now going on inside the federation and I can assure the House they are being followed and monitored very, very closely by Government.
“We agree with the sentiment expressed on both sides that it is for the federation to reform itself and not for the Government to step in – at this stage.”
But he added: “We don’t have plans to change the federation before the review is considered and processed by the federation but it is absolutely important the federation moves forward with timely reform and I don’t rule out the possibility of legislation or of new regulations.”
The backbench motion was passed unopposed by MPs.