Plebgate officers apologise for ‘poor judgement’

Three senior police officers accused of trying to discredit the government's former chief whip today apologised for their conduct.

The officers admitted they should not have spoken to the media following their meeting with Andrew Mitchell last year.

However, they denied trying to mislead the press or public about what Mitchell had said.

"We acknowledge the investigation’s criticism relating to our poor judgement in talking to the media following the meeting with Andrew Mitchell, for which we take this opportunity to apologise," inspector Ken MacKaill from West Mercia Police, detective sergeant Stuart Hinton from Warwickshire Police and sergeant Chris Jones from West Midlands Police, said in a joint statement.

"We would like to emphasise (as we did to the investigation) that in no way did any of us ever plan or intend to mislead anyone about what occurred during this meeting or otherwise," they added.

A transcript of their meeting with Mitchell last year revealed that the former chief whip had admitted swearing while trying to leave Downing Street, but had also denied using the word "pleb" or insulting the police.

Despite this, the three officers briefed the press that Mitchell had refused to elaborate on what had happened. The officers then publicly urged him to resign.

An internal investigation by West Mercia Police concluded that the three officers had no case to answer and had not tried to mislead the public.

However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last week disagreed with their judgement

"In my opinion the evidence indicates an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naive or poor professional judgement," deputy IPCC chair Deborah Glass said last week.

Mitchell's allies said the officers' apology did not go far enough.

"The statement from the three police Federation officials is simply not good enough. Their actions have destroyed a career," David Davis MP said.

"The transcript of the meeting which took place in Sutton Coldfield shows that the Federation deployed a premeditated line of attack against Mr Mitchell. This is not a case of misjudgement, it is deliberate misconduct and they should face the consequences of that misconduct."

Doubts over police accounts of the original incident on Downing Street were first thrown when CCTV footage emerged showing a scene different from that described in the official police log.

An email, supposedly from a member of the public apparently corroborating the log, was also found to have been written by a police officer.

A poll out today suggests that the incident has not significantly damaged public perceptions of the police.

YouGov found the percentage of people believing the police's version of events had fallen by just one per cent since last year, while the percentage believing Mitchell had risen by just six per cent.

Overall trust in the police has also barely changed, according to the poll although trust in senior officers has fallen significantly in recent years.

Despite this, around half of the public still trust senior officers as opposed to just 20% who trust senior Conservative politicians.