Metropolitan police have been accused of “deferring to the powerful” by failing to investigate Downing Street parties in apparent violation of lockdown rules.
The force said Monday it was in contact with the Cabinet Office in light of “widespread reports related to alleged violations of the Downing Street Health Protection Regulations on May 20, 2020.”
The statement came after the leak of an email from one of the prime minister’s top officials inviting more than 100 Downing Street employees to a “bring your own drink” party during the first coronavirus shutdown.
A senior law enforcement source with close knowledge of the regulations said that the May 2020 gathering in the garden of No. 10 hosted by the assistant prime minister was a clear violation of the regulations in force at the time. “A binge in the garden is not according to the rules,” they said.
Jane Connors, the acting deputy deputy commissioner, who leads the Met on coronavirus enforcement, was considering the Met’s next steps on Tuesday and whether the force needed to abandon its policy of not retrospectively investigating alleged Covid breaches, amid warnings from that posture is weakening. public confidence in the police.
The Met is also facing legal action to try to force it to justify its inaction. The Good Law Project said it had initiated legal proceedings over the Met’s refusal to investigate reports of a Downing Street party on December 18, 2020.
The campaign group said that in letters between it and the Met, police said they had “relied on the government’s assurances that no rules had been broken” and that it “would not have made sense to interview Number 10 staff about the parties because they allegedly refused to answer questions that exposed them to a risk of prosecution ”.
Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, said: “You can have the rule of law or you can give in to the powerful. But you can’t have both. Cressida Dick’s cat will know that multiple crimes were committed. Shame on the Met, and ultimately all of us, that she refuses to investigate. “
The Met faces further questions about whether its officers knew of the May 2020 meeting when it took place and whether they could have taken action at that time.
Green Party colleague Lady Jones said the invitation to the May 2020 garden party, sent out by Johnson’s top aide, Martin Reynolds, was concerning. “This garden party raises big questions for the Met police, as their officers surely must have monitored this meeting through their security cameras and were aware of the rules in effect at the time,” he said.
“The police are losing the public’s trust with their attitude that there are many rules for us and no rules for conservative ministers. Did Martin Reynolds consult with Met police officers about Covid restrictions or inform them about the event?
So far, the Met has only said that it is aware of the latest revelations and that it is in contact with a Cabinet Office investigation by official Sue Gray. He could choose to refer matters to the police, it is understood.
The force is aware that any sanction for an infraction would only be a fine, but parliament gave it the power to investigate complaints for up to three years after they occurred. For other relatively minor offenses, the deadline is six months.
Downing Street said Gray’s investigation would “stop” if police decided to conduct their own investigation.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said Tuesday: “I think the Cabinet Office has made it clear that they are in contact with the police and obviously the police have the ability to launch an investigation if they see fit.
“That would pause the work that the Cabinet Office team has done.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism