A police chief constable has "rescinded" the decision that three officers have no case to answer for misconduct over the "Plebgate" affair, a parliamentary committee heard today.
The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, said that the move by David Shaw of West Mercia Police "totally vindicates" the findings of an original internal investigation which recommended a misconduct charge, but was overturned by three chief constables.
The decision not to press ahead with misconduct charges was challenged by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which said there were issues of ''honesty and integrity'' among the three representatives of the Police Federation, who held a private meeting with Mr Mitchell last October about claims that he had called officers guarding the Downing Street gates "plebs".
Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams, who conducted the internal investigation, told MPs that he still believes that the officers have a case to answer over accounts they gave of the meeting, when they told the press that he had failed to give a full account of the altercation.
Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, he said: "I did find a case to answer for misconduct and that's still my view."
Mr Reakes-Williams said that he understood that his chief constable may still consider disciplinary action against the trio - Police Federation representatives Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones.
He said that the three chief constables of the officers' forces - West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands - were the "appropriate authorities" to decide whether disciplinary action should be taken.
"I don't agree with the appropriate authorities," said the chief inspector. "However, I quite understand the conclusions they came to."
Committee member Mark Reckless told Mr Reakes-Williams that Mr Shaw had now decided "to rescind his decision to find no misconduct".
And Mr Vaz said: "At the end of the day, you have actually been vindicated. We will hear evidence later from the Chief Constable of West Mercia which has been submitted confidentially to this committee, which totally vindicates your view.
"You must be delighted about that vindication, considering your first conclusions were removed (from the report). He is backing you up today."
Mr Mitchell met the three officers in his Sutton Coldfield constituency office on October 12 last year, after he was accused of calling officers guarding Downing Street ''plebs'' in a foul-mouthed rant as he was asked to cycle through a side gate on September 19.
The Tory MP said he wanted to meet Mr MacKaill, Det Sgt Hinton and Sgt Jones to ''clear the air''.
A secret recording made by Mr Mitchell shows that he apologised for swearing at the police officers but denied using the word ''plebs'', while in comments made after the meeting Mr MacKaill claimed the former Tory chief whip refused to provide an account of the incident.
West Mercia Police conducted an internal investigation into claims the three officers were trying to discredit Mr Mitchell but concluded in August this year that there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct. H owever, the IPCC concluded they should have faced a misconduct panel.
The three officers earlier this week apologised for making a public statement after the Sutton Coldfield meeting but did not retract the comments made.
Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that the three officers and the chief constables should give "a full account and a proper apology" at today's hearing.
Mr Reakes-Williams, who deals with professional standards for Warwickshire and West Mercia police, told MPs that, on the instructions of the IPCC, he omitted his recommendations on disciplinary action when he passed his report on to his superiors.
But he said that in a later meeting with the deputy chief constables of Warwickshire and West Mercia, he made "absolutely clear" that he believed the three officers should be d isciplined for "misleading" the public, but stopped short of finding that they should be sacked for gross misconduct.
"My view is that taken as a whole, the comments made by the federation representatives did have the impact of misleading the public as to what happened in that meeting," Mr Reakes-Williams told MPs.
"But I think it's important that I make the distinction between misconduct and gross misconduct."
For a charge of gross misconduct - which carries the possible sanction of dismissal - he would have to have been sure that the officers had gone to the Sutton Coldfield meeting with the "pre-meditated" intention of lying about Mr Mitchell, he said.
And he said he was not certain that Mr Mitchell had in fact given a full account of the Downing Street incident in his discussion with them.
"I would disagree with you that Mr Mitchell gave a full account," said Mr Reakes-Williams. "Clearly, Mr Mitchell was absolutely clear in that meeting about what he did not say, but he did not in my view make it so clear what he actually did say."
Mr Reakes-Williams said that the former chief whip - who resigned his job in Cabinet shortly after the Sutton Coldfield meeting - is owed an apology for the way in which the case has been handled.
When asked whether he thinks Mr Mitchell is owed an apology, he said: "Certainly I do.
"I think whatever the rights and wrongs of this case, you have to take into account the impact on Mr Mitchell and his family of what took place at that meeting on October 12. Clearly that is the only thing I can comment on given the wider issues."
The IPCC's deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass told the Home Affairs Committee that she was "absolutely astonished" when a final report came back from the three forces recommending that the officers had no case to answer.
She went on: "Nothing gave me any concern until I saw that final report on August 28 which concluded no case to answer. Until that point I had no inkling that this was going to be anything other than at least misconduct, and I expected gross misconduct."
A gross misconduct finding would have meant that the officers could have faced the sack.
She added: "All I can say is that to me the evidence and the conclusions were so at odds that I needed to put that on the public record."
Ms Glass, who leaves the IPCC in March, said that having listened to a recording of the 45-minute meeting with Mr Mitchell, and media broadcasts that followed, she felt the politician had been open with the federation representatives.
"It seemed to me that he was answering the questions he was asked."
There was also potentially a legal problem with the way the report was sent to senior officers, she added.
In a separate investigation codenamed Operation Alice, the Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to bring criminal charges relating to allegations that police officers gave misleading accounts of the original Downing Street incident. Eight people including five police officers arrested under the investigation were re-bailed.