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London police to investigate alleged Downing Street lockdown parties

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on January 19, 2022 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Tuesday that the police will investigate alleged parties held at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street offices due to an apparent breach of Covid-19 rules.

It comes shortly after the latest disclosure that an event was held during lockdown to celebrate Johnson’s birthday on June 19, 2020.

The London police chief said that while the force did not typically investigate lockdown breaches long after the event, the decision to open an investigation followed evidence provided by the Cabinet Office.

“What I can tell you this morning is that as a result firstly of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and secondly my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is 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,” Dick said Tuesday.

Several other events that appeared to have taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall were deemed not to have reached the threshold for a criminal investigation based on the information available, Dick said.

Johnson has so far resisted calls to resign from across the political spectrum, despite public anger over a long and growing list of alleged lockdown breaches.

Dick acknowledged “deep public concern” about allegations of lockdown parties in breach of the government’s own Covid guidelines.

The investigation marks an about-turn for the Met, which had previously faced sharp criticism for dismissing calls to look into the claims.

Gray report to be delayed?

Senior civil servant Sue Gray had been expected to publish the results of her own investigation into the “partygate” scandal in the coming days. However, the Met’s investigation may now mean Gray’s report is delayed.

That’s according to the terms of reference of the Gray investigation, which states: “As with all internal investigations, if during the course of the work any evidence emerges of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence, the matter will be referred to the police and the Cabinet Office’s work may be paused.”

Sterling dipped 0.3% lower on Tuesday morning. The British currency stood at $1.3449 shortly after 11:45 a.m. London time, near a three-week low of $1.3441.

“Throughout the pandemic the Met has sought, as I have said, to take a proportionate approach. I should stress the fact that the Met is investigating does not mean that fixed penalty notices will necessarily be issued in every instance and to every person involved,” Dick said.

“We will not be giving a running commentary on our current investigations, but I can assure you that we will give updates at significant points as we would normally do.”

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