'Something Strange Going On': Met Police Bashed as Service Seeks Limits on Govt's 'Partygate' Report

© Flickr / BackBoris2012Boris Johnson with Met police officers
Boris Johnson with Met police officers - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.01.2022
Earlier this week, the Metropolitan Police confirmed they are investigating whether any law was broken during the alleged No 10 parties held in 2020 and 2021 amid coronavirus lockdowns. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the probe, which he said would "help to draw a line under matters".
London's Metropolitan Police have been slammed amid speculation that senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on the purported COVID rule-breaking Downing Street parties will be redacted before being made public to ensure it complies with a previous request by the Met that nothing prejudices its own inquiry into the matter.
Former Chief Prosecutor for the North West Nazir Afzal tweeted about "absolute nonsense from the Met Police", arguing, "a purely factual report by Sue Gray cannot possibly prejudice a police investigation. They just have to follow the evidence, of which the report will be a part".
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The same tone was struck by ex-Supreme Court Justice Lord Jonathan Sumption, who told the BBC that there was "something very strange going on" and that there was "no legal rule" warning that a factual report cannot be published in the run-up to the police probe.

Sumption claimed that the Met had "effectively obstructed or delayed" lawmakers from holding the government to account by urging Sue Gray not to publish key details of her probe.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in turn, underscored that he wants the report "in full and the investigation finished as quickly as possible", arguing that the government was "paralysed" by the police inquiry.

"Any issues of prejudice have got to be worked through but this whole mess, this whole paralysing of politics, is being caused by the prime minister and his wrongdoing", Starmer stated.

He was echoed by Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesperson, who stressed that "police officers need the trust and confidence of the public to do their jobs and keep our communities safe".

"That's why we called for the police to investigate No 10 weeks ago and put this whole sorry business behind us, instead of waiting for Sue Gray", Carmichael said, adding that the senior civil servant's report "must be published in full, including all photos, text messages, and other evidence".

According to him, if the document "is redacted now, a full, unredacted version must be published as soon as the police investigation is complete".

Metropolitan Police Want to 'Avoid Any Prejudice' to Their Probe

The remarks come after the Met said in a statement on Friday that they "did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation".

The police service added that "for the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report".

Commander Catherine Roper pointed out that the police "have not delayed this [Gray's] report and the timing of its release is a matter for the Cabinet Office inquiry team".
The decision to open its own probe into the alleged No 10 parties was announced by the Met on Tuesday and at the time they said they didn't think there was any risk of prejudice.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during the weekly question time debate at Parliament in London, Britain, January 19, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.01.2022
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Met Police Chief Cressida Dick confirmed that they are "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".

Tuesday's announcement was followed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcoming the Met's decision to conduct its own investigation because, he said, he believes "this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters". At the same time, Johnson made it clear that he does not believe he broke the law when it comes to him taking part in several Downing Street parties.

Johnson's spokesperson has since said that the Met "should be given time and space" to complete its "independent work". The moment came in a statement amid media reports that the PM will receive the results of Gray's probe in "the coming hours or days" before they are made public.
The UK prime minister has been grappling with calls to resign after a series of revelations showed that several social gatherings were held at his offices throughout 2020 and 2021, flouting COVID-19 social distancing rules at the time. Following the eruption of the "partygate" scandal, Johnson ordered senior civil servant Sue Gray to conduct an internal inquiry into the allegations.
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