Met 'betrayed plebgate row police'

Hillingdon Times: Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell outside his north London home Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell outside his north London home

A former policeman at the centre of the "plebgate" row has said officers on duty at the gates of Downing Street have been "betrayed" by their Met bosses.

Ian Richardson said that while he maintained that Andrew Mitchell called officers "f***ing plebs" and was "officious and rude", he believed he should not have lost his job as Chief Whip over a "quirky incident that should have blown over".

Mr Mitchell was accused of making the comment after police refused to let him cycle through the main gates of Downing Street, instead asking him to use a side gate.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Richardson condemned the Police Federation for whipping up the case against Mr Mitchell, whom he felt was treated "like tethered prey" as he was forced to resign.

He also said the officers at the gate were undermined by colleagues in the Diplomatic Protection Group who leaked the log of the incident to the media and by the actions of Pc Keith Wallis, who was last week jailed for 12 months for lying about witnessing the incident.

Mr Richardson said that neither he nor his three colleagues was involved in any sort of conspiracy against Mr Mitchell and accused bosses at the Metropolitan Police of failing officers by not clarifying the incident and investigating what happened, instead focusing on who leaked the story to the media.

Mr Richardson, 50, who retired with 30 years' service in October 2012, a month after the incident, was the first person to speak to Pc Toby Rowland, the officer who claims he was sworn at by Mr Mitchell.

He has since given three witness statements to Operation Alice, the inquiry into the affair.

He did not hear the exchange, but said that Mr Rowland immediately recounted what was allegedly said and that he had warned Mr Mitchell that he might have to arrest him.

Mr Mitchell, Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield, has conceded that he swore at officers, but denies using the other words attributed to him. He maintains he was stitched up by police, whom he says lied in logs.

Reiterating his support for his former colleague, Mr Richardson told The Times: "Not for one second did I think, 'He's making this up'. He repeated to us those exact phrases that were to become the absolute focus of their exchange - the swearing, the insults and the threat that we 'hadn't heard the last of this'."

As the most senior constable, Mr Richardson says he then told Mr Rowland to report what had happened to his sergeant, "to cover our arses".

He said: "I said, 'Write that down and ring the skipper because you just threatened to arrest the Chief Whip in Downing Street - there's likely to be some problems'."

Mr Richardson said that when the story became public and Police Federation officials began to condemn Mr Mitchell he pleaded with senior officers to put the record straight, but was told his views were "of no interest to anyone".

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