Sergeant Hinton – he’s the vulnerable one with the dry mouth and soft eyes. He started badly and ran to form.
He began by telling the chairman quite firmly: “It’s important I give you a narrative around my explanation around all this.”
Here’s a rule of thumb the police might put in their manuals. Anyone who says he wants to give a narrative around an explanation is lying like a flatfish.
If the suspect uses any variation of the following words – “no intention to mislead”, “honest error” and “I can’t apologise for things I haven’t done” – charge them.
Sergeant Hinton and Sergeant Jones had been recalled by Keith Vaz to correct the record. They’d been told their evidence last time was unconvincing and that they’d misled the committee, so here they were for their right of reply.
You can see the advantage of the right to silence.
Hinton had been caught on tape calling the Home Secretary “that woman”. Apparently this is very offensive. Mrs May has surely been called a good deal worse, but Hinton saw that wasn’t going to fly as a defence.
So he said, variously, he had forgotten her name. He hadn’t remembered saying it. It was a typo. It was an honest error.
As ever, the cover-up is the thing. How desperately dishonest they looked as they talked about their “interpretation of the question.”
Question: Have you had any complaints against you?
Real Answer: 13.
“My understanding of that question remains now as it was then. It wasn’t my intention to mislead the committee.”
It was like pulling wisdom teeth, getting them to say anything that wasn’t in their jointly prepared, obviously-legalled statements.
In them, Hinton, and his co-dependent co-defendants had constructed a new apology, very carefully worded. But remember, a proper apology is a plea of Guilty, that’s why they won’t apologise.
The new iteration “recognises and regrets” the distress caused to Mr Mitchell – implicitly, by the events in Downing Street that he himself caused.
The real apology goes like this: “We’re very sorry that we went into an industrial relations meeting solely in order to denounce a Government minister on a completely different issue to film crews we’d invited in time for the six o’clock news. We pretended to sympathise with the minister, we watched him grovel, we accepted his apologies, then we tried to get him to accuse the police of lying knowing this would reignite the whole issue and help our political case against his Government’s policy. Even though he wouldn’t say they’d lied we told him we were drawing that conclusion, and we were now obliged by our Code of Conduct to report the Downing street police for lying. We were just trying to get him to say something we could use against him. But Mr Mitchell was better at the game than we were. He didn’t give us anything. Our spokesman – who had listened to our meeting without joining in – decided that the only damaging thing he could come up with was ‘He told us what he didn’t say but not what he did say.’ The implication was enough. Shortly we were able to celebrate with bestial grunting and air-punching cheers his resignation and humiliation. We acted in bad faith and continued dishonestly, muddying the waters with false claims of memory failure and mental incapacity in order to avoid making this apology, here given, in the hope of merciful judgement and forgiveness.”
The Police Complaints people came on to say there’d be a new report – possibly with new conclusions – out by Christmas. That caused a cheer.
But then Dame Anne Owers caused a great groan saying there was no reason to doubt the integrity of the senior officers who’d taken off the hostile conclusions of the original report.
And a second great groan when she suggested it was all a matter of confusion rather than a brutal display of profession suppression.
She also said that ACPO accusations against her office were misconceived. “It’s not a question of fault and blame,” she said.
But if an inquiry into the whitewashing of a police investigation isn’t about fault and blame – what the Dickens is it?