This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where angels fear to tread...

And so late last night we had some breaking news about the plebgate saga: the Home Affairs Select Committee released a report reviewing their perspective on the Andrew Mitchell / Police Federation meeting and subsequent investigation of the officers for misconduct. Based on recommendations made by the HASC, the IPCC announced that they will conducting a new independent inquiry (or to use the precise wording: redetermine the investigation). Accompanying this is a video broadcast by IPCC Deputy, Deborah Glass.

It probably goes without saying that this matter is getting now eye-poppingly procedural and complex. Like other observers and interested parties, I welcome this fresh look at the evidence and the conduct of the Federation officers involved in the meeting. For example, you can access Bob Jones' (West Mids PCC) statement on the matter here. I do not see this second look as a 'retrial' but an opportunity to quieten the cacophony or ill informed comment and try to get to the bottom of things.

After all this news broke late last night (I was en route back from a wonderful evening at the Albert Hall with the massed Male Voice Choirs of Cornwall), I followed and tweeted on the matter. It did not help that many of automated tweets from the IPCC had broken links...

One tweet that stood out was this one from @NathanConstable with my reply below:

As regular readers know, I have tweeted and blogged on this whole subject recently (a blog that has risen rapidly into the top three most read posts on my blog). And I am mindful of what Nathan advised. And so I am not going to do any analysis (I have not read the HASC report in detail etc.) and I am going to wait for fresh IPCC investigation to report, for the reasons stated above. I have been told that the 4 hour HASC hearing from a couple of weeks ago is riveting, but right now I do not have the time. (Surprisingly, I do have other things to do than blog!)

But.... here are some questions that I would dearly love to have answers to:

1) When are we going to see substantive progress on original investigation into that fateful night? It is my understanding that there is a report sitting in a drawer somewhere in New Scotland Yard. Is this ever going to see the light of (public) day? And if we are waiting (as I think we are) for the misconduct proceedings against the officers to conclude... what timescales are we talking about here?

2) If I were in Andrew Mitchell's shoes (lost a well paid job that I loved and had my reputation tarnished by police officers putting words in my mouth - as I think he would see things) I would be making a complaint! In fact, I would be jumping up and down somewhere outside New Scotland Yard demanding that my complaint is pursued speedily! I have read the reasons Mr Mitchell gave in the meeting with Federations reps as to why he was not making a complaint then. But that was before he felt he had to resign. So my question is: why hasn't Andrew Mitchell made a formal complaint about the officers on the Downing Street gate? 

3) Has sound recording equipment ever been present near the gates or added to the CCTV cameras at the end of Downing Street? If I was PM, I would ensure this functionality was present because you never known when it might come in useful... (I am investigating this matter)

4) Has Mr Mitchell ever documented his full account of what he recalls was said by all parties on that night? We know a lot about what he says he did not say (see the transcript of the meeting with the Fed reps) and something about one of the sentences he did say... but is that all? It may well be, of course. There again, it may not.

5) To refer to the Home Secretary as 'this/that woman' has been deemed to be offensive it would appear. Although I am not entirely sure from my quick read of the HASC report. My question is: if the Home Secretary were a man, would it have been as offensive to say 'that man'? 

6) I think that we now know that the meeting between Mr Mitchell and the three Federation reps was secretly recorded by a Conservative Party press official. Should people meeting with members of the Government (or even merely members of Parliament) now just assume that their words may well be secretly recorded & transcribed? 

7) What is an independent inquiry? 

8) There has been much talk about how this whole episode has damaged the reputation of the police service. Has this much cited shift in public opinion been independently and statistically validly measured and verified? (I have read many tweets from people who say there are much bigger things to be concerned about...)

9) Will the Police Federation be offering more 'media & politician handling' courses for its reps in the future?

And so, I would be most grateful for any answers you have to these questions - there is plenty of space below. And if you wish, do add more questions...

PS: Just spotted this excellent blog post (thanks @DorsetRachel for highlighting) by @anyapalmer - well worth reading, in my opinion.


  1. Anonymous4/11/13 11:38

    What is Deborah Glass's motive for publicising her personal view on an investigation overseen by her organisation? Surely the IPCC procedures are there to ensure an investigation is not hijacked by the interests of one person. If she felt the Chief Constable's were incapable of impartiality in reaching their decision, then why did she not intervene earlier?

    1. As for her motive - you would need to ask her. But she gives her explanation as to why the case is being reopened in her video - essentially (if I have this correct) that there is no final final report. She will not be involved henceforth she says.