Plebgate has damaged Met - chief

Times Series: Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says the "plebgate" affair has damaged the Met Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says the "plebgate" affair has damaged the Met

The head of Scotland Yard admitted his force has been damaged by the Plebgate controversy but defended his own handling of the affair.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe said there was "no doubt some damage had been done".

He also insisted crime statistics were "generally sound" despite investigations into serious allegations that officers are manipulating them to improve performance records.

One officer is being prosecuted and eight face disciplinary action in the wake of the row over claims - which he disputes - that the then cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell called officers "plebs".

Sir Bernard said soon after the incident that his officers "accurately reported what had happened".

Asked whether he now felt he had been right to do that, he told BBC Radio 4's Today he had a responsibility to protect staff morale.

"It's not an unreasonable statement after the person about who the allegation is made ... apologised to the individual involved and then resigned from the Government," he said.

"We all had to make an account at that time.

"What we have since done is have a rigorous inquiry and I think that has been shown that we now have a criminal prosecution against one officer and gross misconduct charges against others."

When it was put to him that the affair had been enormously damaging for the force, he said: "It has. There is no doubt that some damage has been done."

The country's most senior police chief sought to play down disagreement between him a police watchdog that it was "almost certain" that some crime figures were being manipulated.

Chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor disputed evidence given by Sir Bernard to MPs that inspectors had lauded statistics as "competent and reliable".

Mr Winsor said he had written to the Scotland Yard chief asking him to explain the disparity between that and the fact that inspectors found "cause for concern" - including 30 out of 244 cases looked at being wrongly closed without a crime being recorded.

Asked if he believed crime figures were accurate, Sir Bernard told Today: "I believe so, generally."

He said he had been "quoting broadly" from the summary of an inspectors' report and insisted that part was not incompatible with there being some specific concerns.

"Generally I am confident. No statistics are 100% perfect," he said.

"There is some evidence - and I do not put it too strongly - that some of the things they are talking about in general have always been a challenge for the police and some are historic.

"What I want to be reassured about is that, in the two and a bit years I've been I charge, are the stats right?

"These are serious allegations and we are investigating."

Sir Bernard said critics - such as Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has called for his resignation over Plebgate - should have "the courage to stand up to me and say it to my face".

"I'm not going to say I've not regretted anything. I'm a human being, for goodness sake, I'm not going to say I'm a perfect person.

"But I'm proud of the people I lead and I'm proud of what we've achieved over the last two years."

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