It is very odd how the key criticism of Andrew Mitchell who recently resigned as Chief Whip of the UK Government, centres around two things; first that it is claimed that he called police officers “plebs” which he denies and swore at them, which I understand he admits, and secondly he disagrees with the account of the incident that the police themselves noted in their notebooks.
Some think that his disagreement with the Police’s version of events is the most serious criticism.
Not every account by police officers is accurate and sacrosanct. Some accounts are positively misleading. We know from what has emerged from the recent investigation into the role of the police at the Hillsborough tragedy that many police statements are untrue or. Untrue police statements have led to many miscarriages of justice.
When I practised criminal law, many years ago, there were many complaints about police “verbals” – the art of making up statements to provide false evidence of guilt. Much of this abuse has been ended by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the procedures of tape recording and videoing interviews. When I recently sat on a jury I was struck by the fairness of the police were in that case. When I listened recently to a tape recorded interview of a suspect I was again struck by just how properly the interview was conducted and how fair the police were to the suspect.
I have no way of knowing what Mr Mitchell said to the Police but I do know that it ill behooves a member of the Cabinet to treat police with anything other than respect. Middle aged men do lose their tempers and act inappropriately. Middle aged men in particular get irate about what they perceive as needless officialdom, bureaucracy and illogical behaviour. In the running of a government which gate you wheel your bike through is nothing to get to get hung about. But plenty of folk did get hung about it and to get hung about it on the basis that all police statements are 100% accurate account of what was said strikes me as odd.