A SERVING police officer has admitted falsely claiming to have witnessed the Plebgate row – prompting the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to apologise to former Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell.
Pc Keith Wallis, 53, of West Drayton, west London, admitted misconduct in public office between September 19 and December 16, 2012, by saying that he had witnessed the incident and arranging for his nephew to support the claim.
Mr Mitchell, who resigned from the Government following the row, welcomed the admission, saying that “justice has been done” in the case.
Wallis’s guilty plea at the Old Bailey led to calls for the former International Development Secretary and Chief Whip’s return to the Government, which he quit in 2012 after allegations that he had sworn at police and called an officer a “pleb” when he was prevented from cycling out of the gates of Downing Street.
The officer was charged after sending an email to Conservative Deputy Chief Whip John Randall, who was his MP, wrongly claiming that he had seen what happened as Mr Mitchell left Downing Street on September 19, 2012.
The then Chief Whip became involved in a heated confrontation with another police officer, Toby Rowland, after he was refused permission to cycle through the main gate.
The Sutton Coldfield MP later admitted swearing but denied Pc Rowland’s claim that he used the word “pleb”.
After the court hearing, Mr Mitchell welcomed Wallis’s guilty plea but said the police officer’s behaviour was “very sad and worrying”.
“I am pleased that justice has been done in a criminal court today,” he said in a statement.
“It is very sad and worrying for all of us that a serving police officer should have behaved in this way. There remain many questions unanswered; in particular why Pc Wallis wrote this email and who else was involved in this process.
“I am looking forward to seeing justice done in the up to 10 other related disciplinary cases involving police officers so that I can focus all my energy on delivering for my constituents and help David Cameron win a Conservative majority at the 2015 election.”
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said Wallis’s behaviour fell “way below the standards expected” of his officers.
He said: “This investigation has been a ruthless search for the truth as at the heart of this are extremely damaging allegations that officers have lied and falsified statements against a Cabinet Minister.
“The evidence against Pc Wallis was such that he has entered a guilty plea.
“To lie about witnessing something and provide a false account falls way below the standards that I and Pc Wallis’s colleagues expect of police officers. His actions have also negatively impacted upon public trust and confidence in the integrity of police officers.
“I would also like to apologise to Mr Mitchell that an MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) officer clearly lied about seeing him behaving in a certain manner.
“I will be writing to him offering to meet and apologise in person.”
Wallis, wearing a black suit and tie, stood in the dock and spoke only to confirm his name and to say he understood the charge before entering his guilty plea.
The court heard that Wallis, who is from the Metropolitan Police diplomatic protection group, admitted the offence in police interview and offered to resign.
Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned sentencing to February 6 pending pre-sentence psychiatric reports.
He released Wallis on unconditional bail but warned him that “all sentencing options remain open to the court”.
Afterwards, Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Wallis’s guilty plea, but his brief statement did not mention a return to Ministerial office for Mr Mitchell.
Mr Cameron said: “It is completely unacceptable for a serving police officer to falsify an account of any incident. Andrew Mitchell has consistently denied the version of events presented in the email and I welcome the fact that the officer concerned has now pleaded guilty.”
Last month the Police Federation confirmed that the officer at the centre of the row was to sue Mr Mitchell.
Pc Toby Rowland issued a letter of claim for libel against Mr Mitchell relating to the issue in the wake of their differing accounts of the heated confrontation in Downing Street.
Prosecutors have found there was insufficient evidence to charge Pc Rowland with any criminal offence after the row, and Scotland Yard has said he will not face disciplinary action.
Mr Mitchell previously said he hoped the officer would give evidence on oath as part of the libel proceedings against the Sun newspaper. But Mr Rowland said he stood by his account of what was said.