Saturday, January 11, 2014

Plebgate: Cameron condemns lying by police officer

The Prime Minister has branded the actions by a police officer who admitted lying about the Plebgate affair as "completely unacceptable."

Pc Keith Wallis, could face a prison sentence after he falsely claimed to have witnessed the Plebgate incident, involving Andrew Mitchell, the former chief whip.

David Cameron joined Mr Mitchell in welcoming the guilty plea by Wallis, as he admitted misconduct in public office after he said he had witnessed the incident.

"It is completely unacceptable for a serving police officer to falsify an account of any incident," said Mr Cameron.

"Andrew Mitchell has consistently denied the version of events presented in the email and I welcome the fact that the officer concerned has now pleaded guilty."

Speaking after Wallis entered his guilty plea, Mr Mitchell said he was pleased "justice has been done."

He said: "It is very sad and worrying for all of us that a serving police officer should have behaved in this way. There remain many questions unanswered, in particular why Pc Wallis wrote this email and who else was involved in this process.

"I am looking forward to seeing justice done in the up to 10 other related disciplinary cases involving police officers so that I can focus all my energy on delivering for my constituents and help David Cameron win a Conservative majority at the 2015 Election."

Wallis of West Drayton, west London, admitted misconduct in public office between September 19 and December 16 2012. He also admitted arranging for his nephew to support the claim.

He was charged after he sent an email to Conservative deputy chief whip John Randall, who was his MP, wrongly claiming that he had seen what happened in Downing Street on September 19 last year.

A row erupted when Mr Mitchell became involved in a heated debate with another police officer, Toby Rowland, after he was refused permission to cycle through the main gate. Mr Mitchell admitted swearing but denied Pc Rowland's claim that he used the word "pleb".

He claims the incident forced his resignation.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has said he would like to apologise personally to Mr Mitchell, following the admission by Wallis.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the case showed the "internal mechanisms" of the police had not worked and that lessons needed to be learnt to restore public confidence in the police. He said: "This plea is not only the first public acknowledgement that Mr Mitchell has been the subject of gross unfairness but it also an admission that a criminal offence has been committed against him.

"With 11 other officers being subject to misconduct hearings, and the further investigation by the IPCC, this appears to be a complete vindication of Mr Mitchell's position."

He added: "Now is the time to turn the page on this whole unfortunate incident, which took only 45 seconds but has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, Mr Mitchell his job and damaged the reputation of the police."

Wallis, who is from the Metropolitan Police Diplomatic Protection Group, pleaded guilty at a hearing at the Old Bailey.

The court heard Wallis had been suffering from psychiatric problems at the time of the incident. At an earlier hearing Patrick Gibbs, QC, defending Wallis, said he had an ongoing psychiatric history that made him struggle at times to remember his own address.

Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned sentencing to February 6 pending pre-sentence psychiatric reports.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has already announced that Wallis and four colleagues will face gross misconduct proceedings.

Mr Gibbs told the court the officer will resign from the Met Police following his guilty plea.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said: "This investigation has been a ruthless search for the truth as at the heart of this are extremely damaging allegations that officers have lied and falsified statements against a Cabinet Minister.

"The evidence against PC Wallis was such that he has entered a guilty plea. To lie about witnessing something and provide a false account falls way below the standards that I and PC Wallis's colleague expect of police officers.

"His actions have also negatively impacted upon public trust and confidence in the integrity of police officers."

Conservative MP Sir Richard Ottaway suggested Sir Bernard could end up having to quit over the row.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "It's a very black day for the Met... Don't forget that Mr Hogan-Howe said right at the outset that he had 100 per cent confidence in his officers and I think he would be the first to admit now perhaps that was a bit of a misjudgment."

Asked if he ruled out the possibility of the police chief having to quit, he replied: "Obviously people will call for his resignation. I personally don't want to make a judgment on that at the moment.

"As a London Member of Parliament, I actually think he is a pretty good Metropolitan Commissioner but if there is, at the end of this, you know, we find ourselves facing the situation whereby he has made a serious misjudgment on this then, no doubt, he will be thinking very hard about his future."

Tom Watson, a Labour MP, called for Mr Mitchell to be restored to the Cabinet.

He told World At One: "It's been pretty clear to me for some time that Andrew Mitchell has had a great injustice done to him.

"The decision of the police officer to resign and plead guilty is further vindication that he's paid a terrible price."

Wallis was arrested on December 15 by officers on the Directorate of Professional Standards as part of the Operation Alice investigation.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "As a result of fresh information received on 13 December 2012, officers from the MPS were made aware of an email sent to an MP by a constituent claiming to have witnessed an altercation between Mr Andrew Mitchell, MP and police officers at the gate of Downing Street on 19 September 2012.

"In this email, sent from a private address, the constituent claimed he was sightseeing near Downing Street with a member of his family, when he saw someone he recognised as Mr Mitchell shouting obscenities at the police officers on the gates of Downing Street.

"As part of the investigation detectives established that the author of the email was in fact a serving MPS officer, who they identified as PC Keith Wallis from the DPG. PC Wallis was not present during the incident on 19 September, nor was he at the DPG base or even at work.

"PC Wallis has admitted that he lied about witnessing the incident and provided a false account to his MP. Detectives have found no evidence to suggest that any officer involved in the incident at the gate was involved with PC Wallis or aware of the fact he had contacted his MP in this way.

"At the conclusion of all legal proceedings PC Wallis will face a misconduct hearing in relation to discreditable conduct, honesty and integrity, and/or improper disclosure of information."

The incident sparked a massive police investigation which has cost at least £237,000 with more than 1,100 statements taken. Detectives have seized 439 exhibits, 78 relevant documents and 78 items, including computers, laptops and mobile phones have been forensically examined.

Original report here




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