“Plebgate” trial begins

Key issue to be decided in two actions relating to Downing Street incident

One of the most high profile libel trials of recent years starts at Court 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 17 November. The “Plebgate” trial, heard by Mr Justice Mitting, will determine a preliminary issue in claims between Andrew Mitchell MP, The Sun and PC Toby Rowland.

PC Rowland was at the gates of Downing Street when Mr Mitchell was prevented from leaving on his bike. Words were exchanged between them. The Sun ran a story in which it was said that Mr Mitchell had shouted at police officers “Best you learn your fucking place. You don’t run this fucking government. You’re fucking plebs”. Mr Mitchell was forced to resign as Tory Chief Whip. He later made a series of statements which questioned PC Rowland’s account of events. Mr Mitchell sued The Sun for libel, which pleaded defences of justification and Reynolds privilege. PC Rowland in turn sued Mr Mitchell, who pleaded justification. The two actions are being heard together.

The trial, which is listed for two weeks, will focus on the preliminary issue of whether the words complained of were substantially true. Mr Mitchell is represented by James Price QC and Victoria Jolliffe, both of 5RB. The Sun is represented by Gavin Millar QC of Doughty Street and Adam Wolanski of 5RB. PC Rowland is represented by Desmond Browne QC of 5RB and Catrin Evans, of One Brick Court.