Met Police Will Investigate 'A Number' Of Downing Street Lockdown Parties

Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed the force will look into alleged events following the Cabinet Office's own investigation.
The Met probe comes on top of a separate investigation into Downing Street parties by the Cabinet Office led by Sue Gray.
The Met probe comes on top of a separate investigation into Downing Street parties by the Cabinet Office led by Sue Gray.

The police will now investigate a “number” of parties alleged to have taken place in Downing Street during the pandemic, it has been confirmed.

Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick made the announcement during a session with the London Assembly on Tuesday morning, in a further blow to an already damaged Boris Johnson.

It comes on top of a separate investigation into Downing Street parties by the Cabinet Office, led by Sue Gray.

Dick said that while the police did not “normally” investigate retrospective breaches of the rules, the force had decided that some events in No.10 met the criteria for an after-the-event probe.

She told Assembly members: “What I can tell you this morning is that as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and, secondly, my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”

Retrospective investigations were only carried out for “the most serious and flagrant type of breach” and where three criteria were met, Dick said.

They were that those involved knew or ought to have known it was against the rules, that not investigating would undermine the law and that there was “little ambiguity” around the absence of any reasonable defence.

The commissioner would not say which parties were under investigation and warned that while breaches could result in fixed penalty notices, the probe did not mean they would be issued “in every instance and to every person involved”.

She added: “We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations.”

The police investigation is likely to heap pressure on an already embattled Boris Johnson, who is facing fresh allegations that a birthday party was held in his honour in Downing Street in June 2020, when indoor gatherings between households were banned.

It is not yet clear whether a separate probe by Whitehall enforce Sue Gray will be paused, but there have been previous suggestions from No.10 officials that Gray’s inquiry would be halted if the Met decided to open its own investigation.

Any interruption to Gray’s inquiry is likely to prolong Johnson’s political pain and remove the temporary cover that her report had granted him.

It comes as Tory peer Lord Hayward claimed that Johnson’s personal ratings in the polls had “plunged quite dramatically” and were now “dire”.

“All the polls show that Boris Johnson is personally in real difficulty,” he said

During the session Dick defended her force’s approach to the allegations of parties in Downing Street.

Assembly member Unmesh Desai said the force’s initial reluctance to investigate had created the impression that it was “covering for those in power”.

But Dick told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee that her force policed “without fear or favour”.

She added: “I myself have… investigated more politically charged investigations, and investigations involving members of the government, members of the civil service and other elected officials – many more than any other senior police officer, I would suggest.”

Dick nevertheless said she understood the “deep public concern” about the allegations that have erupted in the media over the past few weeks.

“The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic, many, many people – including many Londoners and my colleagues – have made huge sacrifices and they have suffered considerable loss during the pandemic.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner welcome the Met’s investigation into alleged Covid rule-breaking in Whitehall and asked “how on earth” Johnson could stay on as prime minister.

She has been granted an urgent question in the Commons asking the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Steve Barclay, to make a statement following on the status of Gray’s inquiry.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing.

“There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service.”


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