Sunday, January 16, 2022

Police are not investigating the ‘BYOB’ gathering at Downing Street

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The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are still not conducting a criminal investigation into the Bring Your Own Spirit gathering in Downing Street following the Prime Minister’s apology.

The force said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the Sue Gray investigation and will review its position if it receives evidence of potential crime.

It has not commented on questions about whether officials guarding the prime minister’s testimonies had witnessed or denounced any of the alleged parties at the time.

“The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of the widespread reporting of suspected health breaches at Downing Street and the Department for Education on various dates and has received correspondence in this regard,” a spokesman said.

“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 force insisted it has taken the same approach to breaches of coronavirus laws, where enforcement is a “last resort”, throughout the pandemic.

“Where live violations of the restrictions have been identified, officials have engaged with those present, explained the current restrictions, encouraged people to comply, and only moved to enforcement as a last resort,” added a spokesperson.

“In line with the Met’s policy, officials typically do not investigate coronavirus violations if they are reported long after they allegedly occurred. However, if there is significant evidence suggesting a violation of the rules, officials can review and consider. “

National police force policies in England and Wales were drawn up at the start of the pandemic to focus on violations that pose the greatest risk to public health.

Fines were issued by police officers who were present at and witnessed events where laws were broken.

Politics has 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.

At the time, Durham Constabulary concluded that Mr Cummings may have committed “a minor breach of the rules” and said there was “no intention to take action retrospectively as it would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members.” to deal with the public”.

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.

Police sources said the underlying principle is that the main aim of the unprecedented legislation introduced under the Public Health Act is to reduce transmission of Covid “in the here and now”.

The law stipulates that corona crimes must be prosecuted “before the expiration of the six-month period, starting from the date on which evidence which the prosecutor considers sufficient to justify the proceedings becomes known to the prosecutor”. .

The clause means the Metropolitan Police could only prosecute people for alleged Downing Street parties if they had not received sufficient evidence of a breach of the law at the time.

The Good Law Project campaign group has launched formal court proceedings against the Metropolitan Police for failing to investigate the alleged Downing Street Christmas party on December 18, 2020.

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 to Parliament after Ms. Gray completed her investigation and “the full facts were established”.

Boris Johnson said he attended the May 20, 2020 gathering for 25 minutes believing it was a “work event”, adding: “While I cannot predict the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have I’ve learned enough to know that 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 results of the investigation as soon as possible, adding, “It will investigate the facts and if any misconduct 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.”

On Thursday, the Greens called for the police to take over the investigation, saying an internal investigation was no longer enough.

Baroness Jones said: “Since Boris Johnson’s admission of an event at 10 Downing Street, this has clearly become a matter for the police, not an internal inquiry to be conducted by a colleague of the people who attended those gatherings.

“Ms Gray may be thinking independently, but this is not an independent investigation. Her request belongs to the Prime Minister and she must review the publication with him.”

A letter to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick questioned whether officers guarding Downing Street were aware of the May 20, 2020 event at the time.

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