Fears that 'plebgate' cop arrest will muzzle whistleblowers
Arresting officer who reported Andrew Mitchell's alleged rant will deter informants, say MPs
THE ARREST of a policeman accused of leaking details of Andrew Mitchell's 'plebgate' confrontation with officers at the gates of Downing Street has raised "chilling" questions about the ability of whistleblowers to go public with their concerns, says the Daily Mail.
An unnamed constable in the Diplomatic Protection Group was arrested at the weekend on suspicion of misconduct relating to the leaking of details of the former Chief Whip's rant in September in which he allegedly called police "morons" and "plebs".
Mitchell, who was forced to quit the Cabinet the following month, welcomed the news of the arrest, saying he had been the victim of "false" claims. But the Mail says the arrest has angered MPs and rank-and-file police officers and sends a disturbing message to potential whistleblowers.
The Tory MP Philip Davies said last night: "Officials should not be arrested for leaking information they believe to be in the public interest. I can understand why the police might want to discipline someone who leaked information but it would be a very sad day if that were ever held to be a crime."
Jenny Jones, the Green Party London Assembly member, and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, told the Daily Telegraph the arrest was a "very bad move" and appeared to be linked to "political pressure", which was more likely in a "post Leveson world".
She added: "In my view whistleblowers should be protected, not harassed."
John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, believes the leak of the police log was "in the public interest". The arrest of the officer was "disappointing" he says and risks damaging morale in the force at a time when it was already at "rock bottom".
The Guardian points out that the case may not be as simple as first thought. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating whether the arrested officer actually witnessed the clash between Mitchell and the police officers - and whether the account of the incident he is alleged to have given an MP was accurate. ·