WARWICKSHIRE’S police chief has hit out at the ‘inept’ Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after the officer from Warwickshire at the centre of the ‘plebgate’ scandal was cleared of giving misleading accounts of the incident.
A Public Misconduct Hearing determined on Wednesday (February 3) that the allegations against Warwickshire Police Sergeant Stuart Hinton are not proven.
Warwickshire Police Crime Commissioner Ron Ball criticised the IPCC for being repeatedly proved wrong during its investigation, describing it as a “sorry saga that has taken far too much time and leaves very few people of those involved with any credit”.
He said: “I have previously described the ‘Plebgate’ affair as a national embarrassment and I stand by that view.
“DS Hinton has been subjected to an overly-lengthy process before the allegations were found to be not proven.
“The IPCC’s judgements concerning this case have been inept from start to finish.
“This whole process could have been completed years ago, saving vast amounts of money. Instead, the costs of all of this have been massive and the public have been left with serious questions about the credibility and competence of the very body which is expensively funded to resolve just these sorts of issues.
“Unfortunately, there are police and crime commissioners and chief constables the length and breadth of the country questioning the governance and oversight of the IPCC, asking to whom is it answerable? How can we be sure that the watchdog is doing its job effectively?
“This whole affair has been an embarrassment from start to finish, yet I see no evidence of red faces from the IPCC. There should be.”
Detective Superintendent Gary Watson, Head of Professional Standards for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police said: “The force welcomes external scrutiny and accepts the decision of the independent panel today. This matter has been the subject of the most intense scrutiny and we are pleased that the due process has now been concluded.”
The outcome of the Misconduct Hearing is subject to the normal appeals process.
The outcomes of misconduct proceedings are published quarterly on the Warwickshire Police website. Visit www.warwickshire.police.uk/article/12112/How-we-manage-improper-behaviour—Forthcoming-public-misconduct-hearings for more information.
The notorious ‘plebgate’ incident, which occurred in September 2012, concerned an altercation between Conservative MP and then Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and the police in Downing Street.
It was alleged Mitchell swore at police and called them ‘plebs’ when they refused to open the main gate for him. Mitchell apologised but denied using the words claimed. However, his position became untenable and he resigned from office a month later.