A second man has been arrested in an investigation linked to allegations that led to the resignation in October of Andrew Mitchell as chief whip of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party in Parliament.
The 23-year-old man was held on suspicion of “intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on or around Dec. 14,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in an e-mailed statement today. The force is probing a police officer’s allegation that Mitchell, who was in charge of Tory party discipline, called officers “plebs” outside Cameron’s residence in September, an incident that led to him stepping down a month later.
A report by Channel 4 News televised Dec. 18 said a police officer had posed as a member of the public and falsely claimed to have witnessed the events in an e-mail to his lawmaker. Cameron may restore Mitchell to office if the new evidence exonerates him, a person familiar with the premier’s thinking said the same day.
The suspect, who was not named, was arrested last night and released on bail this morning. He is not a police officer or member of police staff, according to the police statement.
The Sun newspaper reported Sept. 21 that Mitchell abused the police officers, saying they should “learn their place,” because they refused to let him cycle through the main gate of Downing Street.
A Diplomatic Protection Squad officer was arrested on Dec. 15 by police investigating how national newspapers were able to publish their records of the incident. Mitchell denied using the word “plebs,” while admitting he lost his temper and swore at officers.
Police widened the investigation yesterday amid accusations by Conservative lawmakers of a politically motivated campaign to damage Mitchell. About 30 officers are working on the inquiry, overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“A police officer posing as a member of the public and sending an e-mail potentially to blacken the name of a Cabinet minister is a very serious issue and does need to be seriously investigated,” Cameron told lawmakers yesterday, referring to the first arrest connected to this case.
The officer wrote an e-mail to his local lawmaker, Conservative John Randall, posing as a member of the public and accusing Mitchell of calling police “plebes,” among other spelling errors, according to the text of the e-mail reported by Channel 4 yesterday.
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