Back in October, Uncut made two predictions: that Andrew Mitchell would resign (down to the day he would go) and he would use the CCTV footage of the incident on Downing Street as the basis for an inevitable fightback.
Now a further prediction: the Metropolitan police will be looking for a new commissioner early next year. Bernard Hogan-Howe will resign.
At the moment he still thinks he can survive but this is about to change. As the new police investigation progresses and evidence mounts that key details in the log book were fabricated, the focus will move onto three areas: first, accountability for the mess; second, Hogan-Howe’s judgement over the past fortnight and third, why there wasn’t even a cursory investigation into Andrew Mitchell’s version of events at the time of the original story.
Bernard Hogan-Howe was appointed to bring more hands on, visible leadership to the Met. His reputation in his former bailiwick of Liverpool was as a leader with a grip of the detail on what was happening in his force.
Now on Bernard Hogan-Howe’s watch, it is likely that some of his policemen will have attempted to frame a cabinet minister. This constitutes one of the gravest potential acts of police corruption in recent years.
To think that at least one serving police officer could be charged and convicted in this affair and no senior officer take responsibility is inconceivable. In this context, given Hogan-Howe’s mandate, it is hard for him to abjure ultimate accountability.
Second, his judgement, over the days since Michael Crick’s explosive report, will surely be called into question.
It is near incredible that Hogan-Howe could continue to back the account in the police log, as late as a fortnight ago, even though he will have seen that the CCTV footage of the incident clearly refutes key details, such as the presence of shocked onlookers.
Andrew Mitchell has already let it be known that he was unhappy with Hogan-Howe’s statement that he had seen “nothing that causes me to doubt the original account” contained in the police logs. Mitchell fears that the commissioner was prejudging his own investigation.
This is indeed a danger, but what happens if the investigators proceed without prejudice? What happens when they highlight inexplicable factual inaccuracies in the police log? Such as the missing onlookers and physical impossibility for the exchange in the log book to happen in the window of time that Mitchell is talking to the officers, on the CCTV.
When this happens, Hogan-Howe will be on record as blindly backing his officers, regardless of evidence he will have seen. His credibility will be shot through.
Third, there is the question of why a more thorough investigation wasn’t conducted at the time of the original incident. We now know the CCTV footage was available then, but the police chose to do nothing. Even though this was as high profile a case as the Met would face all year and Andrew Mitchell was flatly denying the police’s account of events, the Met didn’t see fit to check the log against the evidence on the CCTV.
Surely as a minimum precaution, Hogan-Howe would have asked his close team to have a look at Mitchell’s claims and see if there was any validity to them?
This is a toxic affair for the police. It tars the Met with the same brush as Hillsborough has their south Yorkshire colleagues. When the investigations have been completed there will be a need to reset the relationship between the police and both politicians and public. The combination of Hogan-Howe’s personal accountability as commissioner, with his questionable recent statements and lack of grip at the time of the original incident make it hard to see how he will survive.