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Andrew Mitchell’s career in ruins after judge rules he did call police ‘plebs’

Andrew Mitchell’s career in ruins after judge rules he did call police ‘plebs’

🕔27.Nov 2014

The reputation and political career of Andrew Mitchell is in ruins after a High Court judge ruled that the Sutton Coldfield Tory MP and former Chief Whip did utter the toxic word ‘pleb’ in a row with police officers at the gates of Downing Street.

Mr Justice Mitting found that on the balance of probabilities Mr Mitchell used “politically toxic” language in a “childish” outburst and said the MP had been so angry that he was not in any state at the time to remember what he had said.

The ruling at the end of a two week trial means that Mr Mitchell has lost his libel action against News Group Newspapers over a story in the Sun newspaper in September 2012 which reported that the MP branded police officers who refused to allow him to cycle through the main gates “f*****g plebs”.

The subsequent media storm over the claim forced Mr Mitchell to leave the Government and he set about trying to clear his name.

Mr Mitchell, who protested his innocence for more than two years, is likely to face legal costs of £3 million.

Damages are yet to be assessed.

The Sun based its report on the account given in his log by Pc Toby Rowland, who was guarding the Downing Street entrance.

Mr Justice Mitting said: “For the reasons given I am satisfied at least on the balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same including the politically toxic word pleb.”

Late for an appointment, Mr Mitchell had attempted to cycle through the main vehicle gates onto Whitehall, only to be told by one of the police officers on duty he would have to dismount and leave through the pedestrian gate

This led to an angry exchange during which Pc Rowland, claimed Mr Mitchell said: “Best you learn your f****** place. You don’t run this f****** Government. You’re f****** plebs.”

Mr Mitchel admitted using bad language and apologised but denied using the toxic word “pleb”.

He later claimed he had said to Mr Rowland: “I thought you lot were supposed to f*****g help us.”

The judge said that Pc Rowland was “not the sort of man who would have had the wit, imagination or inclination to invent on the spur of the moment an account of what a senior politician had said to him in temper”.

The MP was in court to hear the verdict, flanked by his wife and daughters, and appeared stunned when Mr Justice Mitting began speaking.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Mitchell will stand for re-election in Sutton Coldfield at the General Election. There is speculation that the Sutton Conservative Association will back the MP, but he may lose the support of party grandees in London and be forced to stand down.

After the verdict, Mr Mitchell told the BBC he was “bitterly disappointed” to lose the libel action.

He added:”This has been a miserable two years. We now need to bring this matter to a close and move on with our lives.”

Lichfield Tory MP Michael Fabricant took to Twitter to declare that Mr Mitchell would have avoided the personally and financially devastating verdict in his High Court libel action if he had shown a “scintilla of humility”.

Political journalist Isabelle Oakshott tweeted that friends had tried to persuade Mr Mitchell not to go to court over the issue.

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