On Thursday 27 November 2014, Mr Justice Mitting handed down a judgment in which, after careful analysis of the evidence, he found that “at least on balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same, including the politically toxic word “pleb””.
It is noteworthy that the Judge does not conclude that Mr Mitchell lied or sought to mislead the Court. It appears that he may have concluded that Mr Mitchell had genuinely (but incorrectly) believed that he had not used the word “pleb” but that his recollection was clouded by his anger in the heat of the moment.
The judgment was delivered orally but a full transcript has now been made available on the invaluable Bailii website: Mitchell v NGN  EWHC 4014 (QB).
Mr Mitchell made a statement outside court, thanking his friends and legal team and saying that he was “bitterly disappointed” but that “We now need to bring this matter to a close and to move on with our lives.” He has not made any public statement accepting the Judge’s conclusions or apologising to PC Toby Rowland.
PC Rowland, whose account of events was substantially accepted by the Judge, emerged outside the court, as the Guardian put it “vindicated and magnanimous“. He said
“It is with huge regret that what happened at the gates of Downing Street more than two years ago has ended up here. It should be pointed out that I and my team tried everything possible to stop the need for court action”.
Former PC Richardson, whose evidence the judge accepted in full, went on the Today programme and said that he felt sorry for Mr Mitchell who, he said, should not have lost his job as Chief Whip.
The Sun claimed that the decision was a vindication of the newspaper and its reporters. Managing Editor Stig Abell said
We’ve always stood by our story and continue to do so. We’re delighted that the judge has ruled that what we reported about evidence on Downing Street and the evening in questions was the truth, and accurate.
There’s been a lot of speculation and comment about Mitchell’s outburst and criticism of our newspaper. This judgment today lays all that to rest. Our article broke the important public interest story and it has been independently and conclusively confirmed today. The Sun can be proud of its journalism.
There was no doubt among commentators that the result of the judgment was both financially and politically disastrous for Mr Mitchell, for example:
- Andrew Mitchell’s career left in tatters after losing Plebgate libel case, The Guardian
- Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’, The Independent
- Andrew Mitchell faces ruin as he loses ‘Plebgate’ libel case [£], The Times
- “Former Government whip Andrew Mitchell faces £3MILLION bill after libel judge decides he DID call police ‘f****** plebs’ – because the officer lacked the ‘wit or imagination’ to make it up” The Daily Mail.
However, it appears that Mr Mtichell will stand again at the next election: “friends” have told the BBC that he has “strong support from his local Conservative association”. According to an exclusive in the Sun, Mr Mitchell is vowing to “do a Profumo” and “help the poor” [£]. The same newspaper reports that [£] Mr Mitchell is paid £18,000 a day by Investec and so could pay the Plebgate costs in 6 months.
Photographers outside Mr Mitchell’s home were able to photograph his wife walking their dog, leading to a Mail Online headline: “Smile of wife who just lost millions: Andrew Mitchell’s wife keeps beaming out dog walking morning after husband lost fortune because he called someone ‘a pleb’ “
The decision came shortly after the departure of Mr Mitchell’s Islington neighbour Emily Thornberry MP from the Labour front bench over a strained allegation of snobbery. Both were reminders of the dangers of the political class appearing to be superior to those who vote for them. As Andrew Anthony suggested in the Guardian that “Class war is back again – and British Politicians are running scared“. Archie Bland had a piece in same paper about the Mitchell trial, “Class war by distant proxy: the Andrew Mitchell trial from inside court 13“.
Finally, and understandably, some commentators treated this as an opportunity to remind readers about the dangers of suing for libel. In a piece in the Indpendent entitled “Andrew Mitchell ‘Plebgate’ trial: The great British libel casino claims a fresh victim” Andy McSmith reminded readers of the other libel litigants who had paid a high price, from Oscar Wilde to Jeffrey Archer, via Jonathan Aitken.