Plebgate: Police officers endure public dressing down after being called to face MPs again

'If... I failed to recognise the meaning of the questions I was asked then I apologise' says Sgt Chris Jones

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Indy Politics

Two police officers endured a public dressing-down today as they were summoned back to the Commons to apologise to MPs for giving them misleading evidence over their role in the "plebgate" affair.

They admitted giving misleading evidence to a parliamentary committee which is investigating claims they, along with a third officer, tried to discredit the former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

Sgt Chris Jones, of West Midlands Police, was hauled back to explain why he had not disclosed the existence of 13 complaints against him.

Det Sgt Stuart Hinton, of Warwickshire Police, was challenged over why he denied referring to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, as "that woman" in a meeting with Mr Mitchell when a recording confirmed he had used the words.

The men, along with Insp Ken MacKaill of West Mercia Police, are representatives of the Police Federation which was locked in a dispute with Mr Mitchell last year over claims he referred to officers in Downing Street as "plebs".

The former Chief Whip, who has always denied the claim, met the three men last year behind closed doors in his West Midlands constituency.

They emerged to tell waiting camera crews he had refused to give an account of the Downing Street encounter, but their version of events was contradicted by a secret recording of the encounter made by Mr Mitchell.

MPs on the home affairs select committee investigating the episode registered their anger over apparent discrepancies in the evidence they received when Mr Jones and Mr Hinton appeared before them last month.

When Mr Jones was asked whether any complaints had been made against him, he insisted there was none.

It later transpired he had faced 13 complaints in his career, two of which resulted in him receiving "management advice".

They involved one claim involving use of force when he pushed someone in the back while off duty and another about his performance when he submitted the wrong CCTV video as an exhibit.

Mr Jones told the MPs today he had misunderstood the question, believing he had been asked whether he had faced a complaint specifically about the Mitchell meeting.

"I do not believe that my answers misled the committee. If however I failed to recognise the meaning of the questions I was asked then I apologise," he said.

Mr Hinton had denied referring to Mrs May as "that woman" during the meeting, but he told the MPs he now accepted he had used the phrase.

"I inadvertently gave an inaccurate answer," he said. "There was no intention to mislead the committee. I repeat my unqualified apology to the committee for this inaccuracy."

Asked whether he wished to apologise to Mr Mitchell and his family for the distress caused, Mr Hinton replied: "For the distress caused. I can't apologise for something that I haven't done and there are other accusations that I totally refute."

Mr Jones said: "I can't apologise for something that I haven't done, but I do regret the disproportionate distress it has caused his family."

Dame Anne Owers, the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, told the MPs that it would stage its own investigation into claims the two officers misled the committee.

It will be conducted alongside the IPCC's inquiry into the Police Federation's meeting with Mr Mitchell.

She said: "We are going to wrap all of this up together. The question of what the officers did or didn't say in front of this committee is a relatively simple matter to deal with. We anticipate that we will be able to complete both investigations this side of Christmas."