The two officers involved in the incident with Andrew Mitchell were immediately fearful of the consequences, sources say
A still from CCTV footage of the ‘plebgate’ incident on 19 September.
The twoÂ policeÂ officers who made the original report about an altercation with former chief whipÂ Andrew MitchellÂ have remained silent â€“ as they have to â€“ as a whirlwind of allegations about conspiracies, fabrication of evidence and fit-ups swirls around them.
The constables, one female, one male, remain in their positions in the diplomatic protection unit, SO6, and are determined, it is said, to get on with their jobs.
What they heard and did in the aftermath of the incident in Downing Street on Wednesday 19 September is now the subject of analysis in the newspapers, on television and within the Metropolitan police as part of the ongoing investigation into what has become known as “plebgate”.
What is known, according to those who have had contact with the officers, is that in the immediate aftermath of an altercation with Mitchell, which lasted about a minute at the gates of Downing Street, both officers made notes of what they say happened in their pocketbooks.
According to those who have spoken to the officers, their account was that Mitchell’s last words to them were “you haven’t heard the last of this”, before he cycled off. Putting it colloquially, sources who spoke to the officers afterwards said they were “bricking it” and were concerned that they needed to make as clear a note as possible of what happened and make sure that it was seen by those above them.
To cover themselves, they wrote a log of the incident from their pocketbook notes, and very soon afterwards emailed it up through the chain of command at the Metropolitan police to a sergeant, an inspector and â€“ it is understood â€“ even higher up the ranks. The Guardian understands a number of officers would have had sight of this emailed log â€“ a tactic adopted by the officers for their own protection.
Also soon after the incident, a third officer â€“ also a member of the diplomatic protection unit â€“ sent an email to his local MP, the deputy chief whip, John Randall, detailing what he said he “witnessed” in Downing Street between Mitchell and the officers.
His account â€“ which he wrote purporting to be a member of the public â€“ claimed that he had been passing by at the time with his nephew and saw and heard what happened, giving an account that turned out to be very similar to that in the officers’ own log of the incident.
The following day, the Sun published the first story on the altercation, reporting that Mitchell had told the officers: “Best you learn your fucking place. You don’t run this fucking government. You’re fucking plebs.”
The Sun cited a “witness” who claimed he had heard the words “pleb” and “moron” â€“ the same words it is claimed were used in the email sent by the third officer to Randall.
The Metropolitan police is now investigating whether that officer fabricated evidence. It has made clear that the officer was not present at the time, as he claimed.
Their investigation is also examining whether any third party leaked the information about the incident to the Sun. Three days after the Sun article, what purported to be the full officers’ log appeared in the Daily Telegraph corroborating the Sun’s version of what had been said.
Scotland Yard has never challenged the accuracy of the officers’ log published in the Telegraph. On Tuesday the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, publicly stated that nothing he has seen in the last few days has affected the original report of the episode by the officers in Downing Street at the time. He said: “There’s nothing I’ve seen in this fresh information that causes me to doubt that original account.”
Inside Scotland Yard, 30 officers are now running a major inquiry into who leaked the information to the Sun and the Telegraph, and into the alleged fabrication of evidence by the third officer who posed as a member of the public in his correspondence.
He was arrested last Saturday night on suspicion of misconduct in public office and the unauthorised release of information. Scotland Yard said today that their inquiry would examine whether there was any evidence of a conspiracy between this officer and any other person.
A number of officers are being interviewed as part of the inquiry, including the two diplomatic protection officers who were involved in the original incident. The Met did not launch an inquiry at the time, preferring instead to leave that to the Cabinet Office. It is not known, therefore, whether these officers have ever been interviewed at length about what happened, or whether the CCTV footage of the incident was viewed at the time.
Scotland Yard has refused requests to publish the officers’ original log, which the commissioner appears to be standing by. Instead, the Met’s directorate of professional standards has embarked on a “large-scale and complex investigation that has grown to incorporate numerous lines of inquiry” which, they say, “will not be short”.
Plebgate constables ‘filed report to senior officers to protect themselves’