Police accountability: the fuss about Plebgate is a sad contrast to Hillsborough | the big issue

Why can Andrew Mitchell have this quick response to his minor incident yet the miners and the Hillsborough families have to campaign for years even to get a hearing?

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, wants to “ruthlessly search for the truth and to follow it no matter where it takes us”. How very laudable but how full of hypocrisy. (“Senior Tory slams ‘cancer’ of corruption in UK police“).

What has actually happened? A man wants to wheel his bike through one gate but is told by a police officer, there to protect him, to wheel it through another gate.

The man, by his admission, swears at the police officer but the rest of the conversation seems to be in dispute. The man resigns from his cabinet post but retains his day job as an MP, claiming his reputation has been damaged. His parliamentary colleagues nickname for him is “Thrasher”, so what reputation are we talking about?

No one has died, as at Hillsborough; no one has been injured or attacked by police dogs and been charged by horses or charged with riot as at Orgreave in June 1984 during the miners’ strike. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign would also like swift action and the same ruthless search for truth, no matter where it takes us.

Why can Andrew Mitchell have this quick response to his minor incident yet the miners and the Hillsborough families have to campaign for years even to get a hearing of any sort?

Barbara Jackson


The current hostilities between the government and the police inevitably will corrode still further any remnant of the ordinary person’s trust in public life in this country. The most common comments heard today on British high streets are to the effect that you can’t believe a word either party to this dispute says; they are as bad as each other.

I think the media must share some of the blame for these cynical views, because they, like the two warring parties, are so metrocentric that they automatically move from the particular (a spat between Westminster MPs and the Metropolitan Police) to the general. Thus, Nick Herbert in your paper castigates “the police” in general, not officers of the Metropolitan force, a generalisation compounded by your article.

Keith Hearnden


I write in response to “Our police must reform or lose respect and trust” by Nick Herbert (Comment). He misses the point entirely. A member of our cabinet, by his own admission, swore at a female police officer in an aggressive manner.

Mr Mitchell committed an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act. The sworn-at officer would be entitled to have arrested Mr Mitchell. I just want to reiterate this important point. A cabinet minister swore in an aggressive manner at a female police officer. Am I alone in thinking this was wrong? In my 53 years, I have never sworn at a police officer. I consider it wrong. For a cabinet minister to do so is abhorrent, not “unwise”, as Mr Herbert thinks.

Ministers and politicians scream for antisocial behaviour to be tackled, yet fall silent when it’s one of their own doing the antisocial behaviour; what hypocrisy.

Mr Herbert then moves on to blame the Police Federation for hounding Mr Mitchell out of his role. Again, it’s a self-inflicted wound. Mr Mitchell only had to be polite and none of this would have happened.

The vast majority of police officers love their job and when they see it being taken apart and destroyed because of a political ideology, they are angered. When they cannot respond to protect vulnerable people because of funding cuts, they are angered. When they are recalled to duty for the tenth time that year because of a lack of officers, they are angry.

In these austere times, the former home secretary Kenneth Baker said the “police should be above politics”. I cannot agree more, but the government has just spent £100m on electing 41 politicians to control and politicise the police service and no one voted for this change. £100m is the same cost as recruiting 3,000 police officers..

John Lilburne


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