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Panel 'should rule over Plebgate'
A misconduct panel should decide if three police officers gave a false account of a meeting with former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell to discredit him, the police watchdog has said.
But the deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Deborah Glass, said that as Mr Mitchell has chosen not to make a formal complaint, she is powerless to direct misconduct proceedings.
Her findings are in direct conflict with the result of an investigation by West Mercia Police that concluded the Police Federation representatives from West Mercia, West Midlands and Warwickshire forces had no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
The three officers were accused of deliberately misrepresenting what Mr Mitchell said during a meeting in his Sutton Coldfield constituency office on October 12 last year when they gave interviews immediately afterwards.
Mr Mitchell met the Police Federation representatives after he was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street "plebs" in a foul-mouthed rant as he was asked to cycle through the main gates on September 19 last year.
The former Tory chief whip insisted he did not use the words attributed to him, and later said he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to ''toxify'' the Tories and ruin his career.
Ms Glass said West Mercia Police found that although the Police Federation contributed to the pressure on Mr Mitchell and his decision to resign, none of the officers had a case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
She said: "The investigating officer concluded that while the federation representatives' comments to the media could be viewed as ambiguous or misleading, there was no deliberate intention to lie. I disagree.
"In my view, the evidence is such that a panel should determine whether the three officers gave a false account of the meeting in a deliberate attempt to support their Metropolitan Police colleague and discredit Mr Mitchell, in pursuit of a wider agenda.
"In my opinion, the evidence indicates an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naive or poor professional judgment."
"In the media and political climate of the day, I do not consider that the officers could have been in any doubt about the impact of their public statements on the pressure being brought on Mr Mitchell.
"As police officers, they had a responsibility to present a fair and accurate picture. Their motive seems plain: they were running a successful, high-profile, anti-cuts campaign and the account that he provided to them did not fit with their agenda."
Ms Glass said the federation representatives must have known Mr Mitchell was under pressure to resign his post as chief whip following scenes at the Conservative Party conference at which Federation members were seen wearing 'PC Pleb' T-shirts.
She said: "It was clear that the parties had very different agendas for the meeting.
"Mr Mitchell saw it as an attempt to clear the air, while the officers focused on Mr Mitchell's 'version of events' - that is what happened in the Downing Street incident on September 19 when Mr Mitchell was alleged to have called police officers 'f****** plebs'."
A statement from Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands Police said: "Despite a thorough investigation under the supervision of the IPCC we do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to support the view that the officers concerned should face misconduct proceedings.
"Our view is that the officers have demonstrated poor judgment in arranging and attending the meeting in the first place.
"In light of this, our position is that management action is a proportionate response."
The three forces added that had the IPCC decided to treat the investigation as a managed or an independent investigation, they would have the power to direct the forces to convene misconduct proceedings but have chosen not to exercise these powers.
Asked if David Cameron thought disciplinary action should be taken against the three officers, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told a daily Westminster media briefing: "These are decisions for the relevant authorities.
"It is very necessary that the proper processes are followed so that we get to the bottom of things. That is absolutely right. But there are authorities with the authority to take decisions around these types of things and it is not for politicians to get involved in the taking of those decisions."