London police probe lockdown parties at British PM’s residence | Boris Johnson News


London’s Metropolitan Police Service has opened an investigation into possible COVID-19 lockdown breaches at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence after receiving evidence from an internal government probe into a series of gatherings.

After initially refusing to probe the alleged violations, the UK’s top police officer Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, the capital’s local government council, on Tuesday that her office would launch an inquiry into “a number of events” at Downing Street and Whitehall.

Johnson promised to cooperate with police in any formal probe.

“I welcome the Met’s decision to conduct its own investigation because I believe this will give the public the clarity it needs and help draw a line under the matter,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

The prime minister is facing calls to resign amid revelations that he and his staff attended a series of parties during the spring and winter of 2020 when most social gatherings were banned throughout England, forcing average citizens to miss weddings, funerals and birthdays as friends and relatives died alone in hospitals.

Gray report

The gatherings are already being investigated by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, whose report, expected this week, will be crucial in determining whether Johnson can remain in power.

The Cabinet Office said Gray’s investigation would continue. But it was not immediately clear whether Gray would have to delay the announcement of her findings because of the police investigation.

British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonJohnson has apologised for attending a party in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020 [File: Dylan Martinez/Reuters]

Johnson has apologised for attending a party in the garden of his Downing Street offices in May 2020, but said he had considered it a work gathering that fell within the social distancing rules in place at the time.

In the latest revelation, ITV News reported late on Monday that Johnson attended a birthday party in his Downing Street office and later hosted friends at his official residence upstairs in June 2020.

His office denied that the gathering violated lockdown regulations, saying that the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outdoors, which was in line with rules at the time.

‘No one is above the law’

London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the police investigation, saying “no one is above the law”.

“The public rightly expect the police to uphold the law without fear or favour, no matter who that involves, and I have been clear that members of the public must be able to expect the highest standards from everyone, including the Prime Minister and those around him,” Khan said in a statement.

“No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the government and another for everyone else.”

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner welcomed the investigation and renewed opposition calls for Johnson to resign.

“Boris Johnson is a national distraction. Conservative MPs (lawmakers) should stop propping him up and he should finally do the decent thing and resign.”

A shopper walks past NHS signage promoting "Stay Home, Save Lives" on a bus shelterA shopper walks past NHS signage promoting ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ on a bus shelter in Chinatown, central London [File: Tolga Akmen/AFP]

Police have previously faced criticism for suggesting that they would not investigate the “partygate” scandal because they do not routinely investigate historical breaches of coronavirus regulations.

But Dick told the assembly that an investigation was warranted in this case because there is evidence that those involved knew or should have known that what they were doing was illegal, not investigating would “significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law”, and there seems to be no reasonable defence for the conduct.

“So in those cases, where those criteria were met, the guidelines suggested that we should potentially investigate further and end up giving people tickets,” she said.

Fixed penalty notices at the time carried a maximum fine of 10,000 British pounds (nearly $13,500.)

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