Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Plebgate officers misconduct decision must be redetermined
The Home Affairs Committee published its report ‘Leadership and standards in the police: follow-up’ on Sunday 3 November 2013 (Tenth Report, Session 2013-14, HC 756-I).
The Committee found that:
The Home Affairs Committee has criticised evidence given by both the officers subject to the disciplinary investigation and their Chief Constables. The individual officers gave evidence which the Committee found to be misleading, possibly deliberately so, and lacking in credibility. In the view of the Committee, the answers they gave were contradictory, inconsistent and provided little or no insight into their actions. The Committee has decided to recall both Sergeant Jones and DS Hinton, next Tuesday 5th November 2013, to apologise for misleading it and has reserved the right to recall Inspector MacKaill should it be found that he too has misled the Committee. The Committee has also referred both DS Hinton and Sgt Jones to the IPCC.
The apologies given by Chief Constable Shaw (West Mercia), Sims (West Midlands) and Parker (Warwickshire) were welcomed by the Committee although the decision taken by Chief Constables Parker and Sims not to redetermine whether their officers should face a misconduct panel was criticised. Mr Parker has also been criticised for seeking to correct the evidence of DS Hinton in a manner which suggested that he lacked impartiality. Assistant Chief Constable Cann (West Midlands) has been criticised for attempting to access the final report of the misconduct investigation prior to it being signed off by the IPCC. The Committee regretted an absence of leadership by all three Chief Constables at a critical time which could have, if utilised earlier, prevented reputational damage to the police service.
The Committee believes that the IPCC should have carried out an independent inquiry in this case although it recognises that resource constraints which would have prevented it for completing an investigation quickly were the main factor behind the decision not to do so. The Committee calls for further resources to be allocated to the IPCC so that cases which may impact on public confidence in policing can be investigated quickly and thoroughly by the IPCC. The Committee also emphasises that, despite its decision not to carry out an independent inquiry being regrettable, this in no way excuses the conduct of the three officers who met with Mr Mitchell or the failure of the three forces to have undertaken an investigation properly or in accordance with the applicable law.
Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:
“We were appalled by the evidence given by DS Hinton, Sgt Jones and Inspector MacKaill. It is now clear that DS Hinton and Sgt Jones misled the Committee, possibly deliberately. We have recalled them to correct the record and if they do not, they will be in prima facie contempt of Parliament.
We are also concerned that the Chief Constables of Warwickshire and West Midlands have not re-determined their conclusions to this investigation. This matter has been hugely damaging to the public’s perception of the reputation of the police officers involved, the Police Federation and the force itself.
We have referred the Police Officers to the IPCC and we welcome their announcement to make a fully independent decision on this investigation which is what we asked them to consider. It is vital that the public see that where police officers make mistakes, they will be held to account. Only then will we be able to focus on the outstanding work done by our police forces.
The narrative of what we have seen could rival any great work of fiction. At every point and at every level, instead of being transparent, we have uncovered a process that obstructs the truth. If this can happen to a Cabinet Minister, what hope is there for anyone else?”