The Tory Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell is currently under significant pressure after a call for a formal inquiry following his outburst at two police officers on the evening of Wednesday 19 September.
Upon leaving Downing Street, it is alleged he asked officers to open the gates that lead on to Whitehall. When the officers refused and asked him to leave via a side gate, he allegedly shouted ‘You fxxxing plebs, I’ll have your jobs for this’, and ‘You don’t know who I am. I am the Chief Whip. You don’t run this fxxxing country’.
The officers recorded this outburst in their pocket notebooks and subsequently in a report and yet to date no action has been taken against the Minister.
This is surprising as swearing aggressively at a police officer constitutes a potential offence under the Public Order Act.
Mr Mitchell can count himself lucky. My client, Mr X of Leicester was less fortunate.
Shopping in Morrisons Supermarket one day, he encountered a police officer in full uniform also doing his shopping. Mr X approached him and said, ‘There is a 9.2 million pound deficit for the next 3 years and you are here shopping for bloody shoelaces and shoe polish. Do you think this is acceptable?’
The officer was taken aback. After a pause, the officer advised Mr X that he needed new laces in order to enable him to chase criminals. The officer then warned Mr X that his conduct amounted to a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, i.e. that Mr X had used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
Mr X advised the officer that he would lodge a complaint and promptly visited the nearby Police Station.
Some 2 months later, Mr X was charged with breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act and the case proceeded to trial.
The officer provided a statement and accused Mr X of saying, ‘There is a 3 something million deficit for the tax payers and you’re in here, why aren’t you out in the street dealing with crime’ and ‘I’m going to report you for shopping on duty. You’re a bloody waste of money’. During this encounter, Mr X was said to be aggressive and intimidating.
Somewhat remarkably, not only was Mr X prosecuted for his ‘threatening and abusive behaviour’ but he was also convicted by the Magistrates! His defence was hindered by the Police or Crown Prosecution Service’s failure to disclose CCTV footage from the supermarket.
Mr X appealed and the case proceeded to the Crown Court. In advance of the Appeal Hearing, the relevant CCTV footage was finally disclosed. Although there is no audio, no one could conclude from the actions of Mr X that he was aggressive or intimidating in his encounter with the officer or, even more significantly, that the officer showed any signs of alarm or distress. At Court, the prosecution case collapsed and no evidence was offered.
I am now pursuing a civil claim against the police for compensation on Mr. X’s behalf.
The police officer in question was caught by my client doing something he shouldn’t have. He was embarrassed. Because Mr X had the temerity to lodge a formal complaint, the officer then instigated a formal prosecution. But for the CCTV footage Mr X could still have a conviction for breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Instead, Mr X ought to be compensated by Leicestershire Constabulary and the individual officer and force’s reputation questioned. If, like in the case of (the rich and powerful) Andrew Mitchell, the officer took the view that there had been no offence committed, (the considerably less well off) Mr X and the police would have avoided all of this. In the meantime, I’m sure that the multi-million pound Leicestershire Police deficit is now even greater because of this ludicrous prosecution. Surely a man who claims to ‘run this fxxxing country’ would have something to say about that..