Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been handed a 225-page dossier urging them to investigate Dominic Cummings for allegedly perverting the course of justice, in relation to a statement about his journeys to the north-east of England at the height of the pandemic.
Matthew Weaver www.theguardian.com
The former regional chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said Cummings’ claims during a press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden on 25 May affected the course of justice as they were made as Durham police’s investigation into his behaviour was already under way.
Afzal’s lawyers gave extensive details of the allegation in the dossier sent on Friday to Durham police, the Metropolitan police and Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, and his staff at the CPS.
They claimed the legal test for such a prosecution had been met. The dossier also accuses Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield, of multiple alleged offences under the coronavirus regulations for leaving their primary home in London and their second home in Durham without, it says, a reasonable excuse.
The most serious allegation in the documents is the claim that Cummings perverted the course of justice in his account of his journey to Barnard Castle on 12 April and his denial of a claim that he made a second lockdown trip to Durham. If such a charge were proven, Cummings could face a prison sentence.
In a statement, Afzal’s lawyers said: “The alleged offence of perverting the course of justice arises from Mr Cummings’ statement in the rose garden … Mr Cummings made public assertions about his conduct at Barnard Castle on 12 April and his actions on the weekend of 17-19 April that appear to be wholly inconsistent with accounts of his conduct at that time obtained from eyewitnesses.”
Dominic Cummings says he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight – video
Cummings admitted in his statement that he had travelled to Durham and Barnard Castle, as revealed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror. He said he had acted legally and travelled to Durham to self-isolate after his wife became sick with suspected Covid, and a day before he also fell ill.
He claimed he had phone data to prove he was not in Durham on 19 April as one Guardian source had claimed. When three other people made similar claims, Downing Street said it considered the matter closed and refused to release the evidence that Cummings said proved he was in London.
Two of the people, Dave and Clare Edwards, gave statements to Durham police officers on 25 May as the prime minister’s chief aide was giving his press conference, claiming that they saw a man whom they believed to be Cummings on 19 April in Durham’s Houghall woods.
The submissions from Afzal’s lawyers said Cummings’ account appeared to have influenced a three-day investigation by Durham police into his lockdown journeys.
The force made no finding on his decision to leave London because its investigation was confined to County Durham. It concluded that the journey to Barnard Castle on Wakefield’s birthday amounted to a “minor” breach of the rules “because there was no apparent breach of social distancing”, and it found there was “insufficient evidence” that he made a second trip.
Afzal’s lawyers said new statements from witnesses called these conclusions into question.
At least three people have reported seeing Cummings in Barnard Castle, including Robin Lees, a retired chemistry teacher, who alerted the Guardian and the police to seeing Cummings and his family getting into a car on a road on the southern side of the Tees on 12 April.
Cummings said he stayed by the Tees for 10 to 15 minutes and strayed no more than 15 metres from his car. But Rosalind Evans, a retired council worker, told the Guardian and the police that she saw someone she believed to be Cummings in the town centre on 12 April.
A third person, Alan Gowland, told the Sunday Times and later the Guardian that he saw someone he believed to be Cummings on a path by a weir on the other side of the Tees from Lees’ sighting.
Afzal’s dossier includes eight annexes of new statements from witnesses in Barnard Castle and Durham. The Met and the CPS have previously refused Afzal’s request to investigate the allegations against Cummings.
Afzal, whose brother Umar died from coronavirus when he was self-isolating at home on 8 April when Cummings was in Durham, said he wanted to get to the truth.
“The picture painted by the witnesses that have come forward appears clear and coherent and is inconsistent in important parts with the version given by Mr Cummings,” he said. “I believe the CPS’s public interest test is also met, given the impact that this has had on general compliance with Covid regulations.”
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and he considers the matter closed. Durham Constabulary have made clear they are not taking any further action against Mr Cummings and that by locating himself at his father’s premises he did not breach the regulations.”
Cummings and Wakefield have been approached for comment.