Last updated: December 17, 2012 11:39 pm

Watchdog to probe ‘plebgate’ officer

A police officer who claimed to have witnessed the Downing Street “plebgate” row which led to the resignation of former chief whip Andrew Mitchell is to be investigated by the police watchdog, it emerged on Monday.

The police officer in the diplomatic protection group had already been arrested over the weekend on suspicion of misconduct as part of a Scotland Yard probe into how Mr Mitchell’s alleged outburst at police – in which he was reported to have called officers “plebs” – had been leaked to the press. But on Monday evening the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it would supervise the Metropolitan Police inquiry.

It is understood that the Scotland Yard probe is examining the “validity” of the officer’s claim to have witnessed the incident, which he then reported to his own MP.

“The IPCC received a referral from the MPS today and following an assessment of the available information, a decision was made to supervise the matter,” a spokesman for the watchdog said.

Andrew Mitchell, who resigned this autumn after weeks of controversy over the incident, was accused of shouting abuse at Downing Street police officers after being told he could not ride his bike through the main gate. Mr Mitchell apologised for not treating the police with sufficient respect but has denied calling an officer a “pleb”.

But the Met stressed there was no evidence to suggest any of the officers involved in the incident were responsible for the unauthorised release of information, which led to the story first emerging in The Sun newspaper and later, in more detail, in The Daily Telegraph.

The officer arrested was not on duty at the time of the incident, the Met police said in a statement.

David Mellor, the former Conservative minister, said it was “good news” that the police were taking the leaks seriously.

“What happened in the Mitchell case was a serious breach of duty with not only the full details of police reports being leaked, but the actual documents being handed over to newspapers,” he said. “This was disgraceful. The question has to be asked, what took them so long?”

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