Met chief vows to uncover truth about 'plebgate' row

Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe defended his handling of the Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" row after breaking off from his holiday to be briefed on progress

Britain's most senior police officer promised a "ruthless" investigation into an alleged conspiracy against a Cabinet minister "no matter where the truth takes us".

Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe defended his handling of the Andrew Mitchell "plebgate" row after breaking off from his holiday to be briefed on progress.

Mr Mitchell increased pressure on the force today when he claimed he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to "toxify" the Tories and ruin his career.

The former chief whip was forced to quit his Cabinet post amid a storm of protest - fuelled by the Police Federation - over claims he called officers "plebs" during an altercation in Downing Street.

But last week Scotland Yard opened an investigation into a possible conspiracy against the MP after it emerged an email from a civilian witness backing up the claims was in fact written by another officer.

In a statement, Mr Hogan-Howe said: "The allegations in relation to this case are extremely serious.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I am determined there will be a ruthless search for the truth - no matter where the truth takes us."

He said the force's determination to get to the truth was proved by his decision to devote 30 officers to the task and the arrest of a member of the diplomatic protection squad and a civilian.

"I believe these actions are vital in maintaining public confidence in the police," he said.

Mr Hogan-Howe called for the investigation to be allowed "time and space".

Mr Hogan-Howe has faced criticism of his handling of the case after saying earlier this week that, despite the arrest of the officer, he had seen no evidence that "really affected the original account of the officers at the scene".

He pointed to his choice of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, head of Professional Standards, to head the investigation and the fact that it was being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The Commissioner will be grilled on the case when he appears before MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Committee next month.

The Diplomatic Protection Group officer was arrested on December 14 on suspicion of misconduct in public office over the email sent to Tory MP John Randall, the deputy chief whip.

It largely backed up the account of what happened in the official log - subsequently leaked to a national newspaper - that claimed Mr Mitchell called officers "plebs" and "morons" during a foul-mouthed tirade.

The politician admits swearing during the exchange but firmly denies using the word which came to symbolise the controversy which eventually forced him out of office.

CCTV footage from the street, which Mr Mitchell only saw after he was forced to resign and was broadcast by Channel 4 this week, appears to contradict some elements of those accounts such as the presence of public witnesses.

On Thursday, police arrested and questioned a 23-year-old man on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on December 14.

Mr Mitchell spoke out in the Sunday Telegraph as he intensified efforts to clear his name and pave the way for a return to the Government's ranks two months after being forced out.

"These awful toxic phrases which were hung round my neck for weeks and weeks in a sustained attempt to toxify the Conservative Party and destroy my career were completely and totally untrue," he said.

He is particularly angry with the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, whose local branches organised protests by members wearing "PC Pleb" T-shirts and demanded Mr Mitchell's sacking.

Outgoing chairman Paul McKeever has acknowledged concerns it "stoked up" the original incident and successor Steve Williams said one of his first acts on taking over next month would be an independent review of its structures.

Former Met commissioner Sir Paul Stevenson used an article in The Sunday Telegraph to compare elements of Federation tactics with those of "militant trade unionists".

Downing Street meanwhile insisted Prime Minister David Cameron "stood behind" his Cabinet colleague for as long as he could amid criticism from some allies of Mr Mitchell.

Newspapers had quoted members of the Mitchell camp claiming he had been left "swinging in the wind" by the premier who they say failed to act on CCTV evidence that cast doubt on the police account.

Number 10 said Mr Cameron, who has not ruled out a return for Mitchell, had "deep sympathy" with his party colleague.

Shadow policing minister David Hanson said he was concerned that Number 10 and the Cabinet Office had worsened the situation "by treating this simply as a media handling issue".

"The IPCC should be able to follow the evidence wherever it takes them. For instance why was this email from someone purporting to be an eyewitness not checked against the CCTV or given to the police months ago so they could investigate?

"In addition, given the current pressures on the IPCC, they will need to set out clearly their involvement and capacity to pursue this investigation fully to ensure it is independent and wide ranging enough.

"We have raised concerns before about the powers, remit and resources of the IPCC and have called for the establishment of a Police Standards Authority to robustly look into allegations against the police."

Tory former policing minister Nick Herbert called for action to tackle what he described as a "cancer" of corruption within the police.

"The extent of wrongdoing should not be exaggerated, but the cancer must be cut out before it spreads," he said.

"The police do difficult and sometimes dangerous work. They deserve our respect for that and both sides must act to keep it."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?