A Warwickshire police officer told MPs on Tuesday he regretted the “distress” felt by Andrew Mitchell and his family during the Plebgate saga.
Det Sgt Stuart Hinton stopped short of a full apology but did apologise to MPs for an “inadvertent error” in evidence over a separate matter to them about the Plebgate affair last month.
He said that he had made an “honest” mistake in the previous hearing held by the Home Affairs Committee and acknowledged that he had referred disparagingly to home secretary Theresa May as “this woman”.
Up to that point, Det Sgt Hinton had refused to acknowledge whom he was referring to.
In a joint statement with Insp Ken MacKaill, he said: “Our position so far as our meeting with Mr Mitchell is concerned has not changed.”
Three officers, Det Sgt Hinton, Insp Ken MacKail (West Mercia) and Sgt Chris Jones (West Midlands) – acting on behalf of the Police Federation – have been accused of giving a false account of a meeting with Mr Mitchell last year.
It happened soon after the incident where Mr Mitchell was alleged to have called Metropolitan Police officers “plebs” outside Downing Street.
Mr Mitchell always denied using the term and met the officers, who represent the police forces in the MP’s constituency, to “clear the air”.
Unbeknown to the three officers at the time, the meeting was secretly recorded by one of Mr Mitchell’s aids and recorded events appeared to conflict with what the officers told journalists outside the meeting.
Warwickshire chief constable Andy Parker told the committee last month: “I would like to apologise to Mr Mitchell because this added to the already big impact of the Plebgate campaign and it is embarrassing that my force was involved in the way it was.”
He added: “However, on the balance of probabilities, I concur that Det Sgt Hinton did not deliberately attempt to discredit Mr Mitchell.”
Ron Ball, Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has criticised the Independent Police Complaints Commission for asking West Mercia Police to investigate the matter only to criticise the outcome when the officers were found not to be culpable of gross misconduct.
Mr Ball will soon arrange a public meeting where he and Mr Parker will answer questions.