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article imageOp-Ed: Plebgate police officer goes to gaol

By Alexander Baron     Feb 6, 2014 in Crime
Yesterday, the Police Commissioner told Andrew Mitchell he was sorry for plebgate. Today, another man in uniform is truly sorry.
If you missed plebgate, refresh your memory here. If a police officer lying through his teeth can cost a government minister his job, what price the rest of us? Andrew Mitchell has now been totally vindicated, and will surely one day return to the Cabinet. Perhaps as Home Secretary!
Meanwhile, the Commissioner himself has apologised, and the man who by his own admission lied about hearing Mr Mitchell say something he didn't, has paid for this lie not simply with his career and his pension but with his freedom. Keith Wallis was given a year in gaol for misconduct in public office.
If you don't understand why this is so serious, read the fourth line again. People lie every day for all manner of reasons. Do you really want to tell your sister, mother, think her new dress is horrible? Or the guy who has just asked you out that his yellow teeth revolt you?
Lying out of tact, discretion, laziness or even common or garden malice is one thing, but the rule of law in this and every other country depends on the veracity of those who enforce those laws. If the police are permitted to fabricate evidence, what chance has any of us? If this officer can fabricate evidence over something as seemingly trivial as an insult, another can fabricate evidence in a murder investigation, maybe plant evidence. Police officers are not ordinary mortals, they have great power, and as the man said, with great power comes great responsibility. And with the proven abuse of that great power, must come harsh punishment.
His QC, Patrick Gibbs, appealed for the imposition of a non-custodial sentence, but that was never going to happen. Don't feel too sorry for him though, he'll spend most of his sojourn at Her Majesty's Pleasure at Ford or some other open prison where the bent coppers serve their time, unless they are convicted of something like rape.
According to the IPCC, there was no organised conspiracy to bring down Mr Mitchell. So how about a disorganised one? Whatever the official verdict, there was clearly malice afoot, and those involved applied what their American brethren call "The Code".
For what it is worth, here is the IPCC statement. Although Mr Wallis is still technically a police officer, he will soon have to attend a disciplinary hearing at which he will be formally sacked. It remains to be seen how much of his pension he will lose, but he should also face a financial penalty in spite of his length of service.
And make no mistake, although this is the end of plebgate as far as criminal proceedings are concerned, a decision was made to throw one of their number to the wolves. The up side is that the next time something like this happens to someone further down the food chain, even the high and mighty will think twice before dismissing the victim as a "conspiracy theorist" or embittered crank.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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