Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee this afternoon, Theresa May said it would be ‘appropriate’ for the West Mercia chief constable to apologise to Andrew Mitchell over the way the ‘Plebgate’ allegations were handled. She was being questioned on the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report, published this morning, which found that there was an ‘issue of honesty and integrity’ which went above ‘merely naive or poor professional judgment’ on the part of three Police Federation officers who gave an account of a meeting with Mitchell following the ‘plebgate’ allegations that contradicted the claims of the former chief whip. The report said West Mercia Police’s own investigation into the meeting was wrong to conclude that the three officers had no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct. May said:
‘I have to say I agree that the IPCC statement makes troubling reading, and if it is indeed the case that warranted police officers have behaved in the way that Deborah Glass has described, then that is not acceptable at all. Now, having received the IPCC statement West Mercia police do have the ability to decide to begin disciplinary proceedings against the officers involved. I understand that they’ve said that they won’t do so. There isn’t a legal power for anybody to compel them to do so and under the existing laws the IPCC cannot at this stage do anything further. If they had taken over this investigation in the first place, rather than passing it back to West Mercia, that would have been a different matter.
‘But in future as you know we are transferring more resources to the IPCC for them to take on more investigations themselves. But it would be a matter for them to decide whether to intervene or whether to force an investigation or not. I defend the operational independence of the police and I have always done so but I have to say that in view of the statement that has been made today by the IPCC I think that it is quite wrong of West Mercia not to take disciplinary proceedings against these officers.’
The committee chair Keith Vaz asked whether there should be an apology from West Mercia to Mitchell. May replied:
‘I think Andrew Mitchell himself has said today that he and his family were waiting for an apology and it would appear that they have been waiting in vain… I think that the – in a sense, the best approach would be actually for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against these officers but I think the police should be clear, the IPCC report is very clear about what they believe has happened in this case, and I think it would be appropriate for the chief constable to indicate to Andrew Mitchell that he recognises what has happened here.’
Pressed again on whether that would be an apology, May said:
‘I think that would be appropriate.’
The Home Secretary is calling for someone else to apologise to Mitchell, but this appears to be her own way of apologising to her former Cabinet colleague over her involvement in the row as well. Mitchell himself was convinced that the Home Secretary was instrumental in turning colleagues against him and that she briefed the media that he could not hold on to his job. She didn’t deny when quizzed about this that she had been at the ‘vanguard’ of calls for him to step down. Today was an opportunity for her to suggest some solidarity with Mitchell, and in doing so, say sorry.