Metropolitan Police maintains refusal to investigate Downing Street parties after bash ‘on eve of Prince Philip funeral’

Force says it will consider any evidence of potential criminal offences from Sue Gray’s report

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Friday 14 January 2022 10:42
<p>Sue Gray’s report is expected to criticise the culture in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)</p>

Sue Gray’s report is expected to criticise the culture in Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Metropolitan Police says it will not change its position on investigating Downing Street parties after allegations over two new gatherings.

A spokesperson for the force told The Independent that two reported leaving events for Boris Johnson’s then-director of communications and a personal photographer on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral would not be investigated before a Cabinet Office inquiry ends.

They pointed to a statement released on Thursday, which police “do not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place”.

“However, if significant evidence suggesting a breach of the regulations becomes available, officers may review and consider it,” it added.

“The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to its inquiry. If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.”

Campaign group the Good Law Project has issued formal legal proceedings against the force over its failure to investigate the parties, accusing police of “deferring to the powerful”.

Scotland Yard has not commented on mounting questions over whether officers guarding Downing Street had witnessed or reported any of the alleged parties at the time.

A letter sent by the Green Party to commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Thursday called for a formal criminal investigation.

Baroness Jones said there were “big questions” for the Met Police, adding: “Their officers must surely have monitored the gatherings via their security cameras and been aware of the rules in place at the time?”

The force insisted that it had taken the same approach to breaches of coronavirus laws throughout the pandemic, where enforcement was a last resort.

Fines were mainly given out by police officers who were present at incidents where the laws were broken, and witnessed them at the time.

Following the scandal over Dominic Cummings’ trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during the first lockdown, when he was the prime minister’s chief adviser, national policy was clarified.

Security Minister asked 'what public should think' about No 10 party held as Queen mourned

Commanders in charge of the policing response to Covid issued a direction to all forces saying that retrospective investigations could be carried out for egregious breaches, if they were merited, proportionate and in the public interest.

Ms Gray’s report is expected to give a factual account of the gatherings and individual conduct, but may stop short of attributing responsibility or alleging breaches of coronavirus law and guidance.

Whitehall insiders view her task as “impossible” under the weight of public expectation, given her lack of legal powers and government push for a “swift result”.

Addressing MPs on Wednesday, the prime minister said he would make a statement to parliament after Ms Gray has completed her inquiry and “the full facts have been established”

Boris Johnson said he attended the 20 May 2020 “bring your own booze” gathering for 25 minutes, in the belief it was a “work event”, adding: “Though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things that we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility.”

Minister Michael Ellis previously said the government would publish the findings of the investigation as soon as possible, adding: “It will establish the facts, and if wrongdoing is established requisite disciplinary action will be taken.

“As with all internal investigations, if evidence emerges of what was potentially a criminal offence the matter will be referred to the Metropolitan Police.”

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