‘First Proof Laws Were Broken’: BoJo Faces Fresh Calls to Quit as Met Confirm 20 ‘Partygate’ Fines
06:51 GMT 30.03.2022 (Updated: 15:18 GMT 28.05.2023)
Senior Tory MPs had urged the Met to wrap up their "partygate" criminal probe, which followed the publication of the initial findings of senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on allegedly lockdown-breaching parties at Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020-2021. Scotland Yard had vowed to proceed with the investigation as "quickly as possible".
Boris Johnson has been facing fresh calls to resign over the “partygate” scandal, as the Metropolitan Police confirm that fixed penalty notices (FPNs) are to be issued in at least 20 cases as part of the criminal probe into allegedly COVID-19 lockdown-breaching gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall.
“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations. The ACRO Criminal Records Office will then be responsible for issuing the FPNs to the individual following the referrals from the MPS,” said a statement from the Met.
It was also added that every effort was being made to “progress this investigation at speed”.
“However due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made to ACRO if the evidential threshold is made, added the Met in its statement.”
As for the identities of those issued fixed penalty notices, it was clarified that the MPS would be following the College of Policing Approved Professional Practice for Media Relations, in line with which, names of the individuals “should not be released or confirmed.”
"We will not confirm the number of referrals from each individual event subject to our investigation as providing a breakdown at this point may lead to identification of the individuals."
‘First Proof of Laws Broken’
The Scotland Yard investigation follows the publication in late February of the initial findings of senior civil servant Sue Gray's report on the "partygate" allegations. The document pointed out that there were "failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office" and that "some of the events should not have been allowed to take place".
The Met probe is looking into 12 separate events, including as many as six that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is claimed to have attended. Among these is a “bring your own booze” gathering in May 2020 and the PM’s birthday celebrations in June 2020.
‘Not a Bean I Can Tell You’: BoJo Refuses to Commit to Resigning if Fined by Police Over ‘Partygate’
20 February 2022, 14:46 GMT
Boris Johnson previously admitted to attending the “bring your own booze” event in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown, while insisting he believed it had been a “work event”.
Johnson told MPs that he attended the May 20 2020 gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff” but “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside”. At the time, the admission triggered growing calls for him to resign from leading opposition figures.
After the statement from the Met, Downing Street denied that the imposition of fines of at least £100 could serve as proof that Boris Johnson misled parliament when he told the Commons last December that “all guidance was followed completely” at No 10.
The PM had “at all times … set out his understanding of events”, Johnson’s official spokesperson stated, adding that Johnson "has said sorry for the things that we did not get right."
Regarding the identities of those slapped with the Met’s fines, Johnson’s spokesperson said their names will not be released, and there was no obligation for any civil servants or special advisers to report the fact to their managers. It was acknowledged that some might require to disclose the fact of fines for vetting processes, depending on their security level.
The only exceptions to this will be Boris Johnson himself, if he were to be among those fined, as well as Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, “given his unique position”.
Action against staff linked to the parties in question would be taken as part of a parallel report into the lockdown-breaching claims, led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, underscored the Downing Street spokesperson, adding:
“There are existing HR processes for anyone who breaks rules in the civil service, and those are well established.”
It was also added that Boris Johnson would not comment on the matter until the conclusion of the investigation, potentially in several months’ time.
“It’s for the Met to make that judgment rather than the prime minister. You will hear more from the prime minister once the report has concluded.”
The Met probe has already seen more than 50 Downing Street insiders contacted over their alleged involvement in the "partygate" scandal after Scotland Yard sent legal questionnaires to individuals at Number 10, including Johnson, over their purported participation in alleged rule-busting events.
The announcement that the Met was issuing the FPNs to the first batch of individuals over breaches of COVID-19 regulations reignited a fresh wave of calls for the Prime Minister to quit.
23 February 2022, 07:46 GMT
“They’re the first proof that laws were broken, despite denials,” one Tory MP was cited by the Guardian as saying.
Another parliamentarian said that if Johnson was fined, the threat of a no-confidence vote could reemerge. “We’re perfectly capable of returning to address this issue when it finally concludes,” said the MP.
The former attorney general, Jeremy Wright, insisted that Johnson should face “resignation or removal from office” if he is discovered to have knowingly attended rule-violating gatherings.
The UK Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said that "Boris Johnson's Downing Street has been found guilty of breaking the law."
"The buck stops with the Prime Minister, who spent months lying to the British public, which is why he's got to go… This has been a slap in the face of the millions of people who made huge sacrifices," said Rayner.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, accused Johnson of "trying to get expensive lawyers to hide behind" in what he slammed as "the act of a scoundrel".
"It's terrible that he is throwing junior staff to the wolves and letting them take the rap when he himself won't. That again shows a lack of moral courage and leadership," Sir Ed was cited as saying by Sky News.
Indeed, the release of Gray's report in February had prompted Boris Johnson to apologise, as well as reshuffle his senior staff, while indicating that he intended to "get on" with his job.
10 March 2022, 20:47 GMT
In February, UK media outlets had reported that over 100 Conservative MPs were ready to turn against Johnson if a no-confidence vote against him was launched. It requires 54 letters of no confidence from Conservative MPs to the chair of the Conservatives' 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, to trigger such a vote.
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