Andrew Mitchell was left facing a £3m legal bill after a judge ruled he probably did call police officers "plebs" at Downing Street.

Mitchell – who earned his fortune at US investment bank Lazard – shall now have to dip in to his wealth to pay off his lawyers, who represented him at the High Court.

Former government chief whip Mitchell reportedly keeps a magnificent cellar of fine wines in his multimillion-pound home in trendy Islington, north London.

But it is unlikely he will have to start selling vintage bottles, as he netted hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from being a financial consultant, as well as his £67,000 MP's salary.

However, the libel bill may not sting as much as the judge's ruling against him, which badly undermines his much-repeated claim that he did not call officers "plebs."

For The Sun newspaper, the libel ruling against Mitchell was a victory, after he sued the title for running the story that kicked off the Plebgate saga.

Stig Abell, managing editor of The Sun, said: "Today represents vindication for The Sun and its journalists. We've always stood by our story and continue to do so. We're delighted that the judge has ruled that what we reported about evidence on Downing Street and the evening in questions was the truth, and accurate.

"There's been a lot of speculation and comment about Mitchell's outburst and criticism of our newspaper. This judgment today lays all that to rest. Our article broke the important public interest story and it has been independently and conclusively confirmed today. The Sun can be proud of its journalism.

"More importantly, today marks a victory for all journalism. We now live in a world where the task of uncovering what goes on in our institutions has never been more difficult. It is the job of journalists to shine light into the dark corners of public and political life. There are many in the establishment who do not wish us to do so.

"A mute press does not serve the public interest, it only serves the interests of the political classes. Today, this verdict has endorsed the values of a robust and irreverent journalism and we're absolutely delighted with the result."