Ex-director of public prosecutions said it is “outrageous” the force has yet to publish a conclusion about the 45-second incident outside Downing Street nearly a year ago
Scotland Yard and the police watchdog have defended their handling of investigations into the so-called plebgate affair in the face of scathing criticism from a former chief prosecutor.
Ex-director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald said it is “outrageous” the police force has yet to publish a conclusion about the 45-second incident outside Downing Street nearly a year ago which led to then chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s resignation.
But the Metropolitan Police have said the inquiry is complicated and will “take as long as is necessary”, while the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has said “all that can be done to conclude the investigation is being done”.
Deborah Glass, deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, which is supervising two investigations into the incident on September 19 last year, said: “While the incident which sparked this investigation is on the face of it simple – it took less than a minute to unfold – what has evolved are allegations of a conspiracy which by its very nature is complex.
“While I share the concerns of others that the investigation is taking far longer than originally anticipated, I am regularly updated on its progress, I am personally reviewing the evidence and I am satisfied that all that can be done to conclude the investigation is being done and that Mr Mitchell himself is kept informed.”
Writing in The Times, Lord Macdonald warned a missile is heading “straight for the heart of the Metropolitan Police” if it turns out the use of the word “pleb” was fabricated.
“It seems quite outrageous that, in the face of the simplicity of the allegations and this significant commitment of public resources, the investigation rambles on with no apparent end in sight,” he wrote in the newspaper.
“We are talking here about the resignation of a British Cabinet minister, a resignation forced upon him at the height of his career by police allegations that are now seriously called into question.
“An expeditious and thorough investigation should have been perfectly possible.”
The plebgate row ignited when Mr Mitchell was accused of launching a foul-mouthed rant at officers guarding Downing Street as he asked to cycle through the main gates on September 19 last year.
Pressure intensified after the Daily Telegraph published a police log of the incident, which claimed he called officers ”plebs” and swore at them repeatedly for making him walk through a side gate.
He 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.
A Channel 4 investigation cast doubt on the officers’ account when it revealed CCTV footage which showed there was not a large group of tourists outside the main gate at the time as had originally been claimed.
An email from a civilian witness backing up the police account of events has also been called into question.
Some 30 detectives have taken statements from all 800 officers in the Diplomatic Protection Group as part of the inquiry, which has taken nine months to date.
Nine Met officers have been or are being investigated for criminal and misconduct offences as part of the Metropolitan Police investigation, known as Operation Alice, the IPCC said.
Four others who are not police officers have also been or are being investigated.
A second investigation was referred by West Mercia Police to the IPCC into an allegation that a West Mercia Police Federation representative gave a false account of a meeting with Mr Mitchell in an attempt to discredit him.
That investigation was later widened to include the federation representatives of the West Midlands and Warwickshire forces, who were also at the meeting.
The IPCC said it has questioned the findings of the investigation, concluded in August, and awaits a response from the appropriate authorities.