Met Police boss pauses holiday over ‘plebgate’ row
10:21 23 December 2012
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has broken off from his holiday to be briefed on the progress of the investigation into the Andrew Mitchell Downing Street row.
The former Chief Whip has spoken out in today’s Sunday newspapers in an effort 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.
And he expressed incredulity at the latest developments in the case, which have led to the arrest of one officer from the diplomatic protection squad and another man from outside the force.
“If you had told me on September 19 (the day of the altercation) that the events revealed last week could take place in Britain today, I simply would not have believed you.”
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, yesterday said it planned an independent review into “issues” with its operations.
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.
Number 10 issued a statement after newspapers 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.
“The Prime Minister has deep sympathy for Andrew Mitchell after allegations emerged that a serving police officer fabricated evidence against him,” it said.
On Thursday, police arrested and questioned a 23-year-old man, who is not a police officer or member of police staff, on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on December 14.
That date was a day before a member of the diplomatic protection group was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in public office related to an email sent to his local MP, John Randall, the deputy chief whip.
Mr Hogan-Howe said subsequent to the arrests that he had seen nothing that “really affected the original account of the officers at the scene”.
He will be grilled on the case when he appears before MPs on the Commons home affairs committee next month in a pre-scheduled hearing.
Scotland Yard said: “The Commissioner has broken off from his holiday for a short period because of his concern for the welfare of all the officers and their families involved in the events surrounding the Downing Street incident.
He will also take the opportunity to be briefed on any developments with the investigation, which the MPS is progressing with urgency, whilst maintaining an open mind and a determination to leave no stone unturned.”