Gatherings, the Met Police and what does Cressida Dick’s cat know?

Read on to find out, including the latest bizarre explanation from the Met for closing the case.

It’s not just Boris Johnson’s credibility that’s on the line – Owl

Context. Police in England and Wales have processed a total of 117,213 fixed penalty notices for breaches of Coronavirus restrictions up to 20 June 2021. Including:

Large gatherings (£10,000 fine) 

  • 366 FPNs have now been processed relating to holding a gathering of more than thirty people in England and three in Wales. 
  • These include, but are not limited to, unlicensed music events, protests and private parties. 

Participating in a gathering of more than 15 people (£800 fines) 

  • 3,440 FPNs have been processed in England under regulations requiring people not to participate in a gathering of more than 15 people. 501 processed in Wales.

More than 800 people were fined for lockdown breaches in week of the alleged Downing Street party. In May 2020, people could only meet one other person outdoors. And the fine for breaching this rule had risen to £100, with a maximum £3,000 penalty for repeat offences.

Met Police facing legal challenge for not investigating Boris Johnson parties

The Metropolitan Police is facing a legal challenge over its decision not to launch an investigation into numerous lockdown breaking parties at Downing Street.

The move comes as a former chief constable, Sir Peter Fahy, said the force’s approach was becoming “an issue of competence in the police”.

Lawyers acting for the Good Law Project issued formal legal proceedings against the Met on Tuesday, alleging that the failure to investigate was unlawful. The service’s decision will now be subject to judicial review.

Government officials and the prime minister are alleged to have repeatedly broken Covid restrictions at No.10, hosting parties and cheese and wine evenings throughout lockdown.

The gathering include social events to celebrate Christmas, as well as a “bring your own booze” drinks on 20 May which the prime minister and his wife reportedly attended.

The Met has however resisted opening a formal investigation into the events despite many other people hosting parties around the same dates receiving hefty fines.

Questions have also been raised about why police officers guarding Downing Street did not spot and report an apparent crime in progress at the time.

It was reported overnight that the Met is in contact with the Cabinet Office over the 20 May event.

Sir Peter, who previously headed Greater Manchester Police, told Times Radio on Tuesday that “questions have been asked why the police are not investigating”.

“Normally, if an organisation is thought to have breached the law, you don’t normally leave it for that organisation to go away and investigate it themselves and wait for the result,” he said.

“And I think obviously, some people have said there’s quite a lot of police officers on duty, around Number 10, why did they not realise that there was something going on and report it or at least give advice that this shouldn’t be going on?

“So I think, unfortunately, it’s becoming, you know, as well as an issue of political confidence, one of competence in the police and almost the investigation system.”

Sir Peter said he understood the force’s initial decision not to investigate but that it needed “to give a very full statement about their decision making, probably in consultation with a Crown Prosecution Service, and with the Mayor of London so that “the public do understand the reasoning as to why they’re going to investigate or not investigate”.

Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said: “You can have the rule of law, or you can defer to the powerful. But you can’t have both. Cressida Dick’s cat will know that multiple criminal offences were committed.

“It shames the Met, and ultimately all of us, that she refuses to investigate.”

The Met Police’s response raises more questions than it answers about No 10’s Christmas parties 

Before Christmas, we wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them to explain or reverse their refusal to investigate the unlawful parties alleged to have taken place at No 10 Downing Street in December 2020. 

We’ve now received the Met’s response, which raises more questions than it answers, and strongly suggests their refusal to investigate the alleged No 10 parties was unlawful. And now the Met’s approach is under the spotlight again following yesterday’s revelations of yet another party, this time organised by a top No 10 aide at Downing Street in May 2020. Each new revelation makes the Met’s policy of not investigating these breaches more damaging. 

In short, the Met says it concluded that further investigatory work would be required before they could decide whether to bring charges, but rather than attempting to do this, they just closed the case. 

Their attempts to justify that decision really don’t make sense. First they say they relied on the Government’s assurances that no rules had been broken. Then they say there would have been no point in interviewing No 10 staff about the parties because they would have refused to answer questions that exposed them to a risk of prosecution. In what other crime would police decline to investigate because the suspected offender assured them no rules had been broken? And those justifications can’t both be true; if no rules were broken, there’s no risk of self-incrimination. We’re intent to get to the bottom of it.

It is not good enough for the Met to delegate their investigative duties to the press. We don’t believe they would make such concessions for anyone else accused of breaking the law.

They seem to be operating a two-tier system, with one rule for those in power and one rule for everyone else. And we think that sets a dangerous precedent with serious implications for public trust. 

We’re issuing formal legal proceedings to force the Met to revisit their decision. Those in power broke the rules – repeatedly. They should face the same consequences as everyone else.