UK policeman admits lying in 2012 'plebgate' row that engulfed minister

Government minister was forced to resign in 2012 after he allegedly called officers 'plebs'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 1:41am

A British policeman yesterday admitted he falsely claimed to have witnessed a row over a bicycle that brought down a government minister.

Keith Wallis, 53, a police constable, pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office by pretending he had witnessed the argument between former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell and an officer at the gates of Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street residence in September 2012.

Mitchell was forced to resign over claims he called officers guarding Downing Street "f***ing plebs" because they refused to let him go through the gate with his bike. He was also said to have told them, "Know your f***ing place".

Mitchell admitted he swore but denied using the word "pleb", a derogatory term for the lower social classes. He was forced to resign over the so-called "plebgate" row a few weeks later.

I am pleased that justice has been done in a criminal court today

His allies claim police lied about the incident to discredit Cameron's government as it was imposing major cuts to the national police budget.

Wallis admitted at London's Old Bailey court that he lied in an e-mail to his local member of parliament that he was present during the row, and admitted arranging for his nephew to support the claim.

The court heard that he has offered to resign from London's Metropolitan Police, where he served as a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group.

Seven other police officers are facing disciplinary proceedings over the scandal.

Wallis was released on bail and is due to be sentenced on February 6 pending the outcome of a psychiatric report.

Judge Nigel Sweeney warned him that "all sentencing options remain open to the court".

Mitchell, who is also a former international development minister, welcomed Wallis' guilty plea but said it was "sad and worrying" that a police officer had behaved in this way.

"I am pleased that justice has been done in a criminal court today," he said. "There remain many questions unanswered, in particular why PC Wallis wrote this e-mail and who else was involved in this process."

Metropolitan Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe apologised to Mitchell for Wallis' lie, adding that suggestions that officers had falsified statements were "extremely damaging".

"To lie about witnessing something and provide a false account falls way below the standards that I and PC Wallis' colleagues expect of police officers," Hogan-Howe said. "His actions have also negatively impacted upon public trust and confidence in the integrity of police officers."

The force said Wallis would face a misconduct hearing once the court case was over.