Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Plodgate

Pandora Maxwell is the one name I'd expected to pop up on Leveson that didn't. A police tip-off to the press ensured that when plod went knocking on Pandora's door at 6am there were photographers there to record the public humiliation of the Maxwells. How are the mighty fallen and all that. Others in the public eye, favoured by the police, can attend a station of their choice to be arrested by appointment with little press attention. It may be far fairer to implement a Scandinavian type anonymity for all, but somehow this doesn't quite chime with a robust press tradition of red meat; the Maxwell family had defrauded their companies and were living comfortably whilst their pensioners had been reduced to penury, and perhaps their public pillorying in the press was as fair a penalty as any directorship disqualifications imposed by the courts. 

Still, the police tip-off has an honourable tradition in a nation such as ours that prefers to cut down tall straws; handcuffed pop stars and soccer players being pushed into the rear of squad cars are the staple photos of our mass press. Leveson's recommendations would see them banned - police officers would be prohibited from making this kind of tip-off. 

Of course sometimes they get it spectacularly wrong, as in the case of Chris Jefferies. Some form of words from the police told the press that they'd got the right man for Jo Yeates' murder, and the press duly unleashed a torrent of vilification against the innocent man. For which they all later paid substantial damages. 

As to Andrew Mitchell, it's a tale of two halves. The video shown on the Telegraph website proves little - it shows nothing of the length of the previous dialogue at the main gate between Mitchell and a police officer, and provides no additional evidence at all as to whether the word 'pleb' was used. However, the fabrication of evidence by an officer who was not even present is far more serious.

This wasn't a tip-off, it was criminal malfeasance. The officer fabricated a witness statement as a result of which the Chief Whip resigned; he also leaked the notebook of one of the officers who was actually present to the press. Clearly this individual had an animus against Mitchell and was willing to lie to further it. For the fabrication of evidence alone there can be no further career for this man in the police - that must be clear. Whether he faces criminal charges is up to the CPS. For leaking the notebook, the case is blurred. This information would be exempt under FOI and only enter the public domain if produced in court. Disclosing it would neither pervert the course of justice nor aid and assist a crime - so it must be a disciplinary offence only. For now. However, under Leveson's recommendations such disclosure would be unlawful. 

Real life is always more complex than codes such as Leveson's imagine. Mitchell is not an innocent, all policemen are not honest and the press is rarely fair. Let's live with it.

7 comments:

G. Tingey said...

Not quite.
Mitchell, as a guvmint minister, was used to the fawning that police normally give such persons.
He then ran into the arrogant jobsworthing that irritate so many of us about plod.
( The determination to keep your car stopped for 3 hours, because they CAN, even though they know there is nothing wrong with it, or your licence, or you, for instance. )
I said, right back at the start, that this was a fit-up, because the plod thought they had got a guvmint minister, & could now treat the rest with the same contempt that they treat us, the general public.
Oops, is the phrase.
Yes, it was an old-fashioned fit-up.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

GT's probably right again (he says through gritted teeth).

"Let's live with it", though, is the sensible statement of a pragmatic thinking person, which would have been the unquestioned default thirty years ago.

However, it does not fit with the process-driven, "computer says" society we have allowed ourselves to become. Everything must be reduced to an SOP*, so "live with it" cannot be allowed - too much discretion, you see: any discretion at all is too much now.

*Standard Operating Procedure

Demetrius said...

AM is a bit of a bossy boots. Some PC's have a tendency to be bossy boots in their own way. When two of this kind meet it rarely ends happily. How about some counselling all round in the virtues of humility?

Anonymous said...

I agree with GT that this was an old fashioned fit-up. But that being the case, there is a huge question left unanswered.

Why did Mitchell, well known for his arrogance and pomposity, resign?

Coney Island

Blue Eyes said...

R you are missing the point about the CCTV I think. The CCTV shows that there were no passers-by, but apparently the official police record as written by the victim of Mitchell's rude tirade states that there were several members of the public who were visibly shocked by the Chief Whip's outburst.

So the log is a lie and the fake testimony of the non-existent passer-by was made in collusion with the author of the log.

Andrew Mitchell might well be a bit of a prick, but he doesn't seem to have been caught lying.

Edward Spalton said...

Greg,
During two years of harassment by council officials, I had exactly that response when I asked a senior man why he was making things so difficult for us."BECAUSE I CAN" was the answer. So the whole of this episode and the countless hours (and expenses) of the thirty police officers now investigating) stems for a few short words said by an irritated minister to an officious Bobby (or not).
It shows the essential triviality to which public life is reduced. The inflated power of the media to work this up into a story reminds me of the disproportionate importance of the bankers ,who have got their cart before the horse. Both have got above themselves because of their corrupt, symbiotic relationships with the politicians ultimately responsible for regulating them

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