Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell has returned to Atkins Thomson partner Graham Atkins and 5RB’s David Sherborne to defend him against a libel claim being levelled at him by Metropolitan Police officer Toby Rowland.
In a new twist to the ‘Plebgate’ saga, Rowland is pursuing Mitchell for libel over accusations that he lied about Mitchell’s alleged ‘pleb’ insults aimed at police officers when he attempted to leave Downing Street back in September 2012.
The officer has turned to Slater & Gordon partner Jeremy Clarke-Williams to lead a libel case against Mitchell. Clarke-Williams has instructed heavyweight libel silk Desmond Brown QC of 5RB and Brick Court’s Catrin Evans to take the case to trial.
Human rights organisation Liberty has also joined the fray, saying it will “intervene in the legal battle” in the event the case proceeds. The group said: “Liberty believes the case would set a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent for ordinary people’s dealings with the police.”
Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti said: “With the public reeling from a long list of police scandal and abuse – Plebgate, Duggan, spying on the Lawrence family – this is the last thing the service needs. It would effectively place officers beyond criticism, silencing those wanting to protest their innocence.”
The officer has issued the claim form but no date has been set for the case.
It marks another mandate for Mitchell’s lawyers, Atkins Thomson, which are currently pusuing News Group Newspaper in a libel case for Mitchell over the ‘Plebgate’ affair. The case set new precedent last July when the High Court restricted Mitchell’s legal spend to that of the court costs – £2,000 (7 August 2013).
The Court of Appeal rejected a bid to overturn the ruling November.
Atkins instructed Temple Garden Chambers’ Simon Browne QC and Richard Wilkinson for the costs trial.