Monday, February 6

Met ‘partygate’ investigation is latest showdown between police and politics | Metropolitan Police


The 48 hours leading up to Cressida Dick’s bombshell announcement of a criminal investigation into “partygate” were intense, busy and momentous for the leadership of the Metropolitan Police.

Only on Sunday did the Met decide it had enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation into the claims of parties in Downing Street and Whitehall, attended by those who made the onerous closing rules.

Discussions at the top of the Met continued throughout Monday, and it was only on Tuesday morning, just before Dick’s announcement to the London assembly, that the scope of those criminal investigations was decided by the force. That included decisions about which “events” it would investigate and which it would not.

Ever since the Sue Gray investigation began to unearth evidence of wrongdoing, the senior team has been sharing information with the police.

Last week, the picture of alleged lawbreaking he painted was becoming clearer. By Sunday, January 23, the Met evaluated evidence that potentially showed “clear and flagrant” infringements, by people who should have known their actions were in breach of the rules and likely would not have had a reasonable excuse for their actions.

In short, the infractions, based on the evidence collected by Gray’s team, seemed clear.

Met Police Commissioner confirms investigations into 'events' of No. 10 – video
Met Police Commissioner confirms investigations into ‘events’ of No. 10 – video

Since the media revelations began in December, the Met has been under fire for its decision not to investigate. Some felt it was hiding behind a policy of not retrospectively investigating Covid rule violations. With each revelation and grudging government admission about the parties, the Met’s insistence that it was not afraid to tangle with those in power was increasingly doubted.

breaches of covid rules usually results in a fine. But since they were first introduced in March 2020, the rules have changed more than 70 times. So the starting point for the Met special investigation team now investigating is to establish what laws were actually in place. They will then look for any physical evidence Gray may have acquired, such as CCTV showing who was where at certain times, security card data also showing people’s locations, and emails. Acquiring photos from mobile phones can also help speed things up.

On Tuesday, Dick hinted that Gray may already have strong evidence of wrongdoing: “I do not anticipate any difficulty in obtaining evidence that is … necessary, proportionate and appropriate for us to obtain in order to reach the correct conclusions.”

none fines issued through notices fixed fines can be paid immediately, or an individual can fight them in magistrates court. Those who pay do not get a criminal record, but those who choose to fight the matter in court risk getting one if the magistrates decide they must.

A senior police official said the Met’s strategy had been to wait for the emerging findings of the official investigation to be shared with them before deciding to launch its own investigation: “It would be wise to wait for Sue Gray.”

One reason for this was that it would be embarrassing if the Met launched an investigation into Johnson’s closest officials, if not the Prime Minister himself, and then Gray concluded that nothing seriously wrong had happened.

Another factor has been the Met’s past experiences of painful clashes with politicians, in which Dick has had a front-row seat.

The first sitting Prime Minister to be questioned as part of a criminal investigation was Tony Blair, over claims that donations to Labor led to honors and noble titles. When it came time to talk to Blair, his aides informed the Met that he would resign if they insisted on interviewing him under criminal caution. The Met relented, according to high-level sources with knowledge of police thinking.

The money-for-peerage investigation collapsed in July 2007 with no charges filed and Labor politicians furious with the Met. Dick’s friend, John Yates, carried out the investigation and felt that politicians tried to skin him alive for his decision to continue with the accusations.

The following year it was the turn of the Conservatives. In 2008, the then Labor Home Office felt that secrets were being leaked to Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green. Because of a potential national security risk, the investigation was led by then-Deputy Commissioner Robert Quick, the chief of counterterrorism. His deputy was Dick.

The Tories were furious when Green was arrested in 2008 and his office was raided. The Met was left red-faced when no charges were filed. Quick felt that parts of the conservative press dug up dirt on him as revenge and that he was a marked man. He resigned in 2009 after confidential documents he was holding were photographed with a long lens as he arrived at Downing Street.

Asked recently if the experience may have dampened Dick’s appetite for investigating the politically powerful, Quick quipped, “She saw what happened to me.”


www.theguardian.com

Also Read  Ryan Seacrest ready for anything

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *