Ex-UK minister not conspiracy victim in 'pleb' row: prosecutors

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 26, 2013 8:14 AM
Ex-UK minister not conspiracy victim in 'pleb' row: prosecutors

LONDON (Reuters) - A British government minister who resigned after a foul-mouthed altercation with armed police outside Prime Minister David Cameron's office was not the victim of "a conspiracy of misinformation" to smear him, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Andrew Mitchell resigned in October last year amid disputed reports that he had called police officers who had refused to open a gate for him "plebs", a derogatory term to refer to working class people that is laden with prejudice.

Mitchell said he had sworn at the police but denied ever using the word "plebs" or telling them that they should know their place and didn't run the country.

In Britain, a country acutely attuned to social class, the incident sparked a media feeding frenzy and fuelled criticism that Cameron's ruling Conservative party was an out of touch upper class elite.

But Mitchell said he had been the target of a police "smear campaign" at a time when the government was pushing through painful reforms to the force.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to show that police at the gate had lied about what happened however, or that Mitchell had been the victim of a "conspiracy of misinformation".

Prosecutors said they had examined previously unseen security camera footage of the altercation, but said they had not been able to determine who said what to whom because there was no sound recording and the men's faces couldn't be seen.

Prosecutors said in the same statement that they had charged one police officer, Keith Wallis, with "misconduct in a public office" because of evidence he had falsely claimed to have witnessed the disputed incident.

Separately, the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said five police officers, including Wallis, would face gross misconduct charges in relation to the scandal.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Andrew Osborn)