Thursday 16 January 2014

Justice for the plebs, too

We may never know exactly what was or was not said in the infamous exchange between Andrew Mitchell and the police at the gates of Downing Street.  There will probably always be at least two versions to choose between.
What we do know though is that at least one policeman lied; he wasn’t even there but gave a statement reporting what he had “heard”.  (Although, of course, the fact that he wasn’t there to hear what was said doesn’t actually conclusively prove that it wasn’t said either!)
To an extent I have some sympathy with Mitchell, who lost his job as a minister and was disgraced for something which he (in all probability) didn’t actually say: and all on the evidence of a policeman prepared to lie.  I might have even more sympathy if he’d been a little more forthcoming with his own version of events; but in legal terms it isn’t up to him to prove his innocence, it’s up to others to prove his guilt.  To date, they have utterly failed to do so.
There’s another question here though, and that’s about how and why the police came to concoct evidence (there must surely have been more than one of them involved - who told the absent witness what he was supposed to have "heard"?).  It all seems to have been done so casually – it must surely raise a question about how common a practise this is.
I would not wish to suggest that all police are corrupt and dishonest; that is patently not the case.  However the knowledge that most people are more likely to believe a policeman than a defendant in the dock – or even more so than a politician – is likely to be a temptation which occurs to more than one policeman, and in more than one set of circumstances, particularly if they “know” what happened and are merely ensuring that the miscreant gets punished.
Mitchell is in the fortunate position of having the public profile, and the support from the media, to get to the bottom of the matter.  All power to his elbow in that endeavour, but I’d be even more supportive if those less able and privileged who had suffered from a similar approach came forward and were given the same opportunity.

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