The Andrew Mitchell case is wrapped up in legal action and formal inquiry. In the first instance, he is suing the Sun for libel; in the second, Operation Alice is taking place (and is still going on over a year after its launch, with over 30 police officers having been put on the case, despite the original incident lasting only 45 seconds). But neither can prove the facts of the case. The court case will turn on the law of libel, not on what happened on that fateful evening in Downing Street. Operation Alice may end in prosecutions or disciplinary action or neither, but it cannot pass judgement what Mitchell said to a policeman.
This is important to grasp this point, if only because the different sides of the controversy, so to speak, are bound to suggest otherwise. If there are no prosecutions, Mitchell’s foes are bound to crow that his guilt is proven. If there are, some of his friends are likely to suggest that his innocence is established, even though the case will not at that point have been heard. I am one of them, but take a different view – namely, that the facts of the case are already clear.
There is no evidence that Mitchell said the words attributed to him other than the police log. That log has been proved to be not fully accurate. It is not true that, as it claims, there were “several members of the public present around the gate” who “heard the altercation and were ‘visibly shocked”: this is plain from the video evidence. And an account backing up the log entry has been proved to be false. A witness who e-mailed his MP backing up the claims about Mitchell in the police log said later when questioned that he “wasn’t a witness to anything”. He had also failed to tell the MP that he is a serving police officer.
In short, the claims against him are clearly false, and Mitchell should be restored to the Cabinet at the first opportunity. The most likely explanation is that the former International Development Secretary was fitted up – precisely the claim that is splashed across the front page of today’s Sunday Times. The paper reports that “a senior police officer has blown the whistle on what he claims was a conspiracy by Scotland Yard protection officers to “stitch up” [Mitchell]“.
The officer in question has apparently named “a police colleague whom he alleges “orchestrated” the plot to bring down Mitchell”. He apparently received the information from a superior officer, and admits he does not have direct knowledge of the conspiracy he has outlined. Nonetheless, “his account is being taken seriously by the Met,” according to the Sunday Times, “which has described him as ‘potentially a key witness’ “. A net may be closing in on a conspiracy…or then again it may not. But whatever is the case, the conclusion is the same. Mitchell is innocent, and should be restored to the Cabinet as soon as possible.