Three police officers accused of trying to discredit the former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell over the “plebgate” row have admitted their “poor judgement” in talking to the media.
But they stopped short of delivering the full apology demanded by David Cameron for their conduct.
Insp Ken MacKaill, Det Sgt Stuart Hinton and Sgt Chris Jones called for Mr Mitchell’s resignation immediately after meeting him last year in his constituency office in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.
They told waiting television crews that the MP had refused to give an account of his notorious clash with police officers when he tried to wheel his bicycle out of the Downing Street gates. Their claim was contradicted by a recording of the meeting secretly taped by Mr Mitchell, who later resigned as Government Chief Whip. He has always denied reports he called the officers outside No 10 “plebs”, but admitted he swore in their presence.
The trio, representatives of the Police Federation, were spared misconduct proceedings after an internal police investigation. But the Independent Police Complaints Commission later disputed the findings by West Mercia Police and said the men faced issues of “honesty and integrity”.
In a statement issued by the Federation, they said: “The reputation of, and public confidence in, the police service is of immense concern to each of us.
“We acknowledge the investigation’s criticism relating to our poor judgment in talking to the media following the meeting with Andrew Mitchell, for which we take this opportunity to apologise.
“We would like to emphasise - as we did to the investigation - that in no way did any of us ever plan or intend to mislead anyone about what occurred during this meeting or otherwise.”
The three officers have been called to appear before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to provide a “full explanation” of the episode.
The Conservative MP David Davis, a friend of Mr Mitchell, said the statement was “simply not good enough”.
He said: “Their actions have destroyed a career. The transcript of the meeting which took place in Sutton Coldfield shows that the Federation deployed a premeditated line of attack against Mr Mitchell.
“This is not a case of misjudgement, it is deliberate misconduct and they should face the consequences of that misconduct.”Reuse content