A serving police detective cleared of misconduct in the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ row was represented by a barrister from leading national set, No5 Chambers.
Det Sgt Stuart Hinton of Warwickshire Police had been accused of giving a misleading account of an interview with Mr Mitchell, and this week appeared before a misconduct panel which cleared him of breaching policing integrity standards.
He was represented by Adrian Keeling QC, a member of the Misconduct and Compliance group at No5. Mr Keeling is experienced in representing police officers at every level of discipline work and widely recognised nationally as a leader in his field. Mr Keeling was instructed by Tim Coolican of Slater & Gordon.
The ‘plebgate’ row centred on a 15-second confrontation in September 2012 between Mr Mitchell and a police constable in which it was alleged the then Tory chief whip called the officer a ‘pleb’. Mr Mitchell was forced to resign from the cabinet but vowed to clear his name.
A gross misconduct case against Det Sgt Hinton heard that he and two Police Federation members met Mr Mitchell at his constituency office just weeks after the incident. A recording of that meeting showed Det Sgt Hinton praising Mr Mitchell for his ‘candour’ and telling him that ‘everybody can have a bad day’ after the MP had admitted to swearing at a police officer.
But the tribunal then went on to hear that the following day Det Sgt Hinton told the BBC that Mr Mitchell had been evasive. In that same interview Det Sgt Hinton, described by colleagues as a model detective, called for Mr Mitchell to resign. And in his closing statement to the panel, presenting officer Aaron Rathmell said Det Sgt Hinton had “passed judgment” and not given a fair and accurate account of the meeting.
In defence, Mr Adrian Keeling told the tribunal that the detective was a man of integrity who had been charged with ‘inaccurately reporting the lies told by a dishonest man’.
“Hindsight absolutely supports Det Sgt Hinton’s honest, accurate and candid view, relying on his good sense and judgement,” Mr Keeling told the panel.
Det Sgt Hinton was unanimously cleared of misconduct in a matter of minutes, after which Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball criticised the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for its handlings of the case.
Mr Ball said: “Had the IPCC taken a different decision initially and conducted their own independent investigation – which allegations of this seriousness would have merited – this whole process could have been completed literally years ago, saving vast amounts of money.”
The IPCC said it had carried out a thorough investigation and that its role was to gather evidence in order to establish whether officers should face misconduct proceedings. It added it was for police forces to hold these hearings and determine the outcome.