Mitchell: I was stitched-up by officials who hid evidence
Monday 04 February 2013
Andrew Mitchell, the former Government Chief Whip at the centre of the “plebgate” scandal, will tonight accuse Downing Street officials of covering-up evidence showing he did not abuse police.
The 56-year-old Conservative MP was forced to resign in October, a month after officers who stopped him wheeling his bicycle out of Downing Street’s main gates accused him of describing them as “f *****g plebs”.
He will tell Channel 4 Dispatches tonight that Cabinet Office officials tried to stop him accessing the CCTV footage which appeared to show he had not been involved in a furious exchange with officers in September, thereby contradicting police accounts.
He admits swearing but is adamant he never used the word “plebs”.
Mr Mitchell claims he asked to see the crucial footage on 19 October but was forced to wait almost three weeks.
“I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn’t do that,” he says. “I couldn’t wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing I had been stitched-up.”
In tonight’s interview Mr Mitchell will go on to claim the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, tried to stop him seeing the CCTV on the grounds of national security.
“I do not think the arguments about national security were genuine, no,” he says.
Further doubts on the police’s version of events were cast after it emerged that an email from an eyewitness backing their story had been sent by an officer who was not in Downing Street at the time.
Mr Mitchell claims that had the CCTV and email been released earlier he may still be in Government.
The CCTV showed no signs of a furious argument, nor did it show a members of the public watching the alleged confrontation, as claimed.
The Commons Public Administration Select Committee has already said Mr Mitchell could have kept his job if Sir Jeremy had spent more time scrutinising the events.
Dispatches will claim the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the police investigation into the incident “had been concluded” in December, shortly before the CCTV images emerged.
Days later, a 52-year-old constable from the Diplomatic Protection Group, whose duties involve guarding Downing Street, was arrested.
Scotland Yard launched another investigation into the events, known as Operation Alice, with 30 officers involved. Two further arrests have been made including that of a 46-year-old member of the Diplomatic Protection Group who was present in Downing Street during the incident.
The woman was arrested on suspicion of “unauthorised disclosure of information to the media” on Friday.
The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, has been vocal in its fierce criticism of Mr Mitchell.
Today the body’s vice-chairman Steve White attempted to distance the organisation from the comments. “The national Police Federation accepted Andrew Mitchell’s apology and we wanted to move on,” he said.
Dispatches: Plebs, Lies & Videotape is broadcast tonight at 8pm.
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