Plebgate libel trial judge orders release of police statements to Sun and Andrew Mitchell

A judge has ruled that police statements related to the Plebgate row at should be disclosed to both former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and The Sun ahead of a an expected libel trial.

Mitchell (pictured above, Reuters) is suing The Sun over a front page report which claimed he had sworn at police officers and called them plebs after they refused to let him cycle out of Downing Street on 19 September 2012.

Mitchell is in turn being sued by PC Toby Rowland, the officer with whom he had the row, after he told the media in a press conference that be believed Rowland had fabricated his account of the incident.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said both Mitchell and NGN had applied on 19 May for an order for disclosure of documents, and that he had decided to grant the orders sought except in respect of two statements made by an individual who was not a police officer.

All the other documents were statements made by police officers, and held by the Metropolitan Police.

The judge said he was satisfied that the documents for which he ordered disclosure satisfied the criteria in part 31.17 of the Civil procedure Rules that they should be relevant and necessary to the case for which disclosure was sought.

"This is a libel action between private parties," Mr Justice Tugendhat said.

"But the issues that it raises are ones that concern the public to a greater extent than most libel actions.

"There is a strong public interest in the court having before it all the relevant evidence and documents.

"The third parties have legitimate concerns about becoming involved in an action which attracts the interest that this action attracts. But they were all police officers and the events in question arise out of their official duties.

"The public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs the interests of the individual third parties. And in so far as the third parties have raised issues, their concerns can be substantially addressed by the conditions under which the order for disclosure is made, and by further orders of the court, to be made in the future, if necessary."

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