As published in the Sunday Times:
Weighing the evidence in Plebgate case
Sir Edward Crew, the former chief constable of West Midlands police, attacked “politicians who have no more knowledge of what happened in Downing Street” than he did (“Protect police from unfounded claims”, Letters, last week). I assume he is referring, among others, to me. Let me put him straight. I went to a great deal of trouble to examine every second of the available video evidence of Andrew Mitchell’s interaction with the police on the night of Plebgate, and compare it with police-sourced “accounts” of the events.
In summary the evidence showed there was no group of shocked onlookers. There was only one member of the public present who was taking an interest in what was going on. Two others passed by, but they were much further away than the other policeman who heard nothing.
It also showed that the interaction between Mitchell and PC Toby Rowland fell into three distinct parts: at the main gate, the move from the main gate to the side gate, where Mitchell was pushing his bike away from Rowland and no conversation was possible, and at the side gate.
The interaction at the side gate lasted about five seconds. I cannot see how the reported conversation of about 40 words can be fitted into that time. I try to apply forensic logic to every case I take up, in this case as in every other. That is what justice demands. I hope Crew would agree.
David Davis MP, House of Commons
Protect police from unfounded claims
I was surprised by Shami Chakrabarti’s column “A policeman’s lot must include being called a liar” (Comment, last week). It is absolutely right where there is evidence of criminality or misdeeds that police officers should be prosecuted and/or sacked. It is also,unfortunately, the case that every day honourable police officers have to tolerate abuse, accusations of lying and of corruption “as part of the job”. But there are occasions when officers should be protected.
In the Plebgate case there has been extensive, continuing media coverage, stoked up by senior politicians who have no more knowledge of what happened in Downing Street than I do.
However, despite a zealous investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and consideration by the director of public prosecutions, no evidence has been found upon which to base a prosecution or disciplinary proceedings against the officer at the centre of the case. He must have been, and continues to be, subjected to significant stress with his integrity being widely impugned.
In these unusual circumstances, he must be entitled to challenge a widespread perception that he has done wrong. Equally, he is right to seek the support of his trade union. After all, his legal protection is probably the only reason he pays his subscriptions.
Of greater concern to Chakrabarti’s Liberty organisation should be the future of the jury system. Media coverage of police officers being prosecuted for criminal activity is right but its extrapolation to the thousands of other officers undermines support for them.
Sir Edward Crew, Chief Constable, West Midlands Police (1996-2002)