Sunday, January 16, 2022

Met Police not investigating Bash ‘on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral’

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The Metropolitan Police say they will not change their position on investigating Downing Street parties following allegations of two new gatherings.

A spokesman for the force said two reported exit events for Boris Johnson’s then communications director and a personal photographer on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral would not be investigated until a Cabinet Office inquiry was completed.

They pointed to a statement released on Thursday that police “do not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place”.

“However, if there is significant evidence pointing to a violation of the regulations, officers can review and consider it,” she added.

“The Met is in constant contact with the Cabinet Office regarding its investigation. If the investigation uncovers evidence of conduct that may constitute a criminal offense, it will be referred to the Met for further investigation.”

The campaign group Good Law Project has launched a formal court case against the force for failing to investigate the parties, accusing the police of “defying those in power”.

Scotland Yard has not commented on mounting questions about whether officers guarding Downing Street had seen or reported any of the suspected parties at the time.

A letter from the Greens to Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick on Thursday called for a formal criminal investigation.

Baroness Jones said there were “big questions” for the Met Police, adding: “Surely your officers must have been monitoring the gatherings through their security cameras and be aware of the rules in force at the time?”

The force insisted it had taken the same approach to breaking coronavirus laws throughout the pandemic, where enforcement has been a last resort.

Fines were issued primarily by police officers who were present at and witnessed incidents involving violations of the law.

National politics have been clarified following the scandal surrounding Dominic Cummings’ trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during the first lockdown when he was chief adviser to the Prime Minister.

Commanders responsible for the police response to Covid issued a directive to all forces that retrospective inquiries into egregious violations could be carried out if deserved, proportionate and in the public interest.

Ms Gray’s report is expected to give a factual account of the gatherings and individual behavior but may not attribute responsibility or allege breaches of the coronavirus law and guidelines.

Under the weight of public expectation, Whitehall insiders see her task as “impossible” as she has no legal authority and is urging the government for a “quick result”.

Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said he would make a statement before Parliament after Ms Gray had completed her inquiry and “the full facts have been established”.

Boris Johnson said he attended the May 20, 2020 ‘Bring your own boze’ meeting for 25 minutes on May 20, 2020, believing it was a ‘work event’, adding: ‘Although I can’t predict the conclusions of the current investigation, I’ve learned enough. I know there were things we just didn’t do right, and I have to take responsibility.”

Minister Michael Ellis previously said the Government would publish the findings of the inquiry as soon as possible, adding: “It will establish the facts and if any wrongdoing is found the necessary disciplinary action will be taken.

“As with all internal investigations, if there is evidence of a potential crime, the matter will be escalated to the Metropolitan Police.”

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