Man rebailed over Plebgate affair

 

A man arrested in connection with the so-called “plebgate” affair in Downing Street was rebailed today, Scotland Yard said.

The 23-year old was arrested on December 14 in connection with the altercation which led chief whip Andrew Mitchell to quit his Cabinet post amid a storm of protest over claims he called officers "plebs".

The Metropolitan Police is currently investigating whether Mr Mitchell was the target of a conspiracy involving officers.

The man was originally arrested on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence and will now answer bail next month, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

A 52-year-old PC in the Diplomatic Protection Group, to whom the 23-year-old is related, remains on bail to return on January 31, a spokesman said.

He was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office on Saturday December 15 and remains suspended from duty.

Last week Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he hoped to hand a file to prosecutors regarding "plebgate" in a matter of weeks.

Mr Mitchell quit following protests over claims he called officers "plebs" as he left Downing Street on his bike last September.

But an investigation was launched after reports suggested he was falsely accused and the two men were arrested last December.

Mitchell claimed he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to "toxify" the Tories and ruin his career after it was alleged an email from a civilian witness backing up the police account of events was in fact written by another officer.

Thirty detectives are now working on the investigation and Scotland Yard has decided to take statements from 800 police officers in the diplomatic protection group.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe last week told the Home Affairs Select Committee he would "pursue the evidence".

He told MPs that part of the investigation was to identify the source of the leaked police log, which recounted the altercation with Mr Mitchell.

He told the Committee that if the allegations against the police officers involved were true, "it would be a very serious matter".

"I don't expect police officers to lie," he said.

Operation Alice, the probe into Plebgate, has so far cost £82,500 since it was set up last month.

The figure, which related to staffing costs, was revealed today in a letter from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan to Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

In the letter DAC Gallan said the initial four-strong team of detectives investigating the Plebgate leak had been expanded in December to an undisclosed number from the Met's Department of Professional Standards under a detective superintendent.

The letter also confirmed that Scotland Yard expects to send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for possible charges to be brought by the end of January.

"The investigation is progressing as expected," she wrote.

"An advice file will be submitted to the Crown prosecution Service by the end of January asking them to consider whether there should be relevant and appropriate charges arising from the investigation."

Mr Vaz added: "It is clear that this investigation which began with four officers has now increased in size by nearly tenfold and has cost £82,500 to date.

"It is in everyone's interest that this matter is concluded thoroughly, but speedily."

PA

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