UK police issue 126 tickets over number 10 ‘partygate’ lockout scandal

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LONDON — The Metropolitan Police concluded their four-month investigation into a series of British government meetings during the pandemic on Thursday, finding that 83 people breached their own lockdown rules on eight different dates.

Boris Johnson received no additional fine beyond the one previously disclosed, making him the first sitting prime minister to break the law last month. But he has been linked to at least five other parties, bolstering critics who say police let him in too lightly.

The simmering scandal has threatened Johnson’s premiership. The fact that he hasn’t been fined a second time – certainly a low bar – helps him survive to fight another day, even as he faces two more inquiries, including a parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied about matches in the House of Commons.

Still, it’s remarkable that 83 people at the heart of government, in what is essentially Britain’s version of the White House residence and offices, were cited for partying during the peaks of the pandemic, when they insisted that people should not be mixing with people beyond their homes.

Some government employees received multiple citations, totaling 126 citations.

How many lockdown parties did Boris Johnson and staff attend? Here is a guide.

Such a count is sure to stoke the ire of Johnson and his operation at 10 Downing Street. He underscores the widespread sentiment, seen in public opinion polls, local election results and interviews, that voters think the ruling elites had one rule for the common people and another for themselves. The outrage is especially pronounced among people who have been prevented from seeing their loved ones in hospitals or nursing homes or even attending funerals.

The investigation into what the British press dubbed “Partygate” was substantial enough to have a police code name: Operation Hillman. Although the fines themselves were small, at £100 or less, new details about the investigation made it clear that these were not just parking tickets, as some Johnson supporters have argued.

The core investigation team was made up of 12 full-time detectives, police said, and other support and supervision was required. They examined 345 documents, including emails, gate records, journal entries and witness statements; 510 photographs and CCTV images; and 204 questionnaires.

The cost of the investigation totaled 460,000 pounds, or about $570,000.

Police examined 12 gatherings held in Downing Street and nearby government offices in 2020 and 2021 and found that events on eight dates breached lockdown rules in place at the time.

Among them: a party on April 16, 2021, on the eve of the funeral of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, and a party on May 20, 2020, with an invitation from a senior member of Johnson’s staff who tells attendees to “bring your own drink.”

Johnson admitted to being at two of the meetings: his birthday on June 19, 2020, for which he was fined, and the BYOB party, which he told Parliament he attended for 25 minutes and thought was a work event. legitimate.

He has been linked to four other matches, on three different dates, by unnamed sources in the British media. These events were mostly farewell parties for departing attendees.

He apologized to the queen for the parties before Prince Philip’s funeral, although he did not attend them himself.

Because the Metropolitan Police failed to explain their rationale, the British media and public were left baffled as to why some people appeared to have been fined for taking part in private gatherings and others not.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that someone could attend a meeting in a way that is reasonably necessary for the job if the meeting itself wasn’t reasonably necessary for the job,” said Adam Wagner, an attorney who closely followed the regulations on pandemics.

Johnson rejected calls to resign after he was fined last month and has tried to justify his failure to act by saying he was an “honest” politician who had “inadvertently” misled Parliament when he said “guidance and rules” on parties in Downing Street “were followed at all times”.

Partygate was one of the reasons his Conservative Party took a beating in recent local elections, and the political danger remains.

Johnson and his government face two more investigations. A report by public official Sue Gray, who previously said the parties involved “lack of leadership and judgment,” is expected to be released soon now that the police investigation is over.

Downing Street gatherings during UK lockdowns ‘hard to justify’, report says

Parliament has launched a further investigation into whether Johnson “knowingly misled” lawmakers about the meetings and whether they breached lockdown rules.

Leaders of the opposition Labor Party on Thursday repeated calls for the prime minister’s resignation.

“Based on the 126 fines issued to the parties,” Emily Thornberry told the radio hosts, “just looking at the magnitude of the violations of the law that have been uncovered by the police, what we know now, with absolute certainty, is that when Boris Johnson came to the House of Commons and said that there were no parties in Downing Street and no rules had been broken, that was a bald-faced lie. There’s no possible way I can claim that I didn’t know that these parties he was attending didn’t break the rules here.”

Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said: “Of course I should resign. He is responsible for the culture.”

Johnson’s defenders have said that while the sides were not well advised, they are not a shooting offense, especially as the prime minister is taking a leading role in supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, and as Britain faces a cost of living crisis. and inflation figures haven’t been seen in a generation.

Kit Malthouse, the police minister, told the BBC: “I’m glad it’s all over. Grateful to the police for behaving efficiently and doing it as quickly as possible.”

He suggested it was time to move on.

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