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UK police probe allegation against minister

LONDON: Detectives are investigating “very serious” allegations that an officer fabricated claims against a government minister who was forced to resign after being accused of calling police officers “plebs,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

Andrew Mitchell quit as the government s chief whip after he was accused of swearing at officers who stopped him riding his bicycle through the Downing Street gates in September. Mitchell admitted swearing, but denied hurling the word “pleb” an insulting term for working-class people at the officers.

Last week, a police officer from the diplomatic protection squad was arrested for alleged misconduct in public office. Channel 4 News has claimed the officer emailed his local lawmaker falsely pretending to be a member of the public who had witnessed the altercation. The email claimed Mitchell had sworn repeatedly and called officers “plebs,” to the shock of passers-by.

“A police officer posing as a member of the public and sending an email potentially to blacken the name of a Cabinet minister is a very serious issue and does need to be seriously investigated,” Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

Channel 4 News also showed CCTV footage Tuesday that appeared to contradict the officer s claim that there were other witnesses to the spat.

The Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that the allegation is extremely serious. “It goes to the very heart of the public s trust in the police service,” the force said in a statement.

The statement said both the force and the police watchdog were investigating the arrested officer s conduct and whether there is any evidence of a conspiracy between this officer and any other person.

Allies of Mitchell said there is mounting evidence he had been falsely accused, and called for him to return to government.

Mitchell resigned from his government post a month after the Downing St. altercation, but remains in Parliament. He admitted swearing, but strongly denied using the word “pleb,” which reinforced a perception of the governing Conservative Party as elitist and lacking empathy with the poor.

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