The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they will not be taking any action in relation to the Downing Street garden party as they don’t ‘normally investigate breaches when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place’.
In a statement released this evening, the Met said that it was aware of widespread reporting of alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street and at the Department for Education.
However, the statement said that the force does not normally investigate incidents of Covid rule breaches which are reported long after allegedly having taken place.
The statement read: ‘The metropolitan police service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street and Department for Education on various dates and has received correspondence in relation to this reporting.
‘Throughout the pandemic the Met has followed the national 4 Es approach of enforcing the Coronavirus Regulations. Where live ongoing breaches of the restrictions were identified, officers engaged with those present, explained the current restrictions, encouraged people to adhere to them, and only as a last resort moved to enforcement.
‘In line with the Met’s policy, officers to not normally investigate breaches of Coronavirus Regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place. However, if significant evidence suggesting a breach of the regulations becomes available, officers may review and consider it.
‘The Cabinet Office is conducting an inquiry into gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street and he Department for Education. The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to this inquiry. If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.’
The statement comes after earlier today whenthe Met refused once again to probe the Downing Street garden party, after Boris Johnson admitted he attended the gathering for 25 minutes but claimed he thought it was a work event in a ‘carefully-worded’ apology.
Scotland Yard reiterated there position that it was a matter for the Cabinet Office ‘based on the absence of evidence’ and its ‘policy’ not to investigate historical lockdown breaches.
Legal experts said the PM’s phrasing was ‘carefully worded’ to suggest his actions fell within the guidance.
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (pictured) is facing demands for Boris Johnson to be interviewed under caution as part of a full criminal investigation into the ‘illegal gathering’ on May 20, 2020
Adam Wagner, an expert in Covid rules at Doughty Street Chambers, said: ‘The Johnson apology was carefully worded and obviously lawyered.
‘He said that he attended because he ”believed implicitly that this was a work event”, that ”with hindsight” he should have sent everyone back inside, and ”technically” it could be said to fall within the guidance.
‘The apology – when read carefully – was to the millions of people who ”wouldn’t see it in that way”, but because he also said technically it could be said to fall within the guidance he is implicitly saying the millions of people are wrong in their interpretation.’
One leading defence lawyer said the account would be ‘laughed out of court’ in a legal case.
Raj Chada, the head of the criminal defence department at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: ‘If any client had tried to use this, it would have been laughed out of court.
‘The cross examination would have been brutal: do civil servants/politicians normally ”bring a bottle to work events?
‘I cannot see that his defence has any legal basis as you were meant to be working from home if you could.’
Legal experts said the PM’s phrasing at PMQs was ‘carefully worded’ to suggest his actions fell within the guidance
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick facing demands for Mr Johnson to be interviewed under caution as part of a full criminal investigation into the ‘illegal gathering’ on May 20, 2020.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey wrote to her, saying: ‘It is vital you take urgent action to investigate potentially unlawful behaviour on the part of all those who attended the party, including Boris Johnson.’
He urged Dame Cressida to ‘reassure the public there isn’t one rule for them and another for Boris Johnson’ by confirming police would probe the ‘illegal gathering’ and interview the Prime Minister under caution.
He suggested any who attended, including Mr Johnson, should ‘be charged and fined in the same way as ordinary members of the public’.
More than 17,700 people were fined by the Met for breaching Covid laws during the pandemic, including 113 for holding a gathering of more than 30, figures show. Sir Ed, the MP for Kingston, said: ‘The police must reassure the public that justice will be done.’
Former shadow attorney general Lord Falconer also said Mr Johnson should be fined or face charges, suggesting a judge would not accept his ‘ridiculous’ explanation about the party being a work event.
‘The Prime Minster acknowledged that he attended an event which was in breach of the law,’ he told Radio 4’s World at One. ‘He broke the law and he admitted it.
‘The police, in the light of that admission, should either give him a fixed penalty notice or charge him.’
He added: ‘The public have to have confidence that the law applies to everyone equally.
‘When the Prime Minister admits a breach of these critical laws, it cannot just be swept under the carpet.’
The Metropolitan Police said yesterday its position had not changed, insisting it was a matter for the Cabinet Office to investigate.