Police will only investigate Downing Street parties if report finds criminal wrongdoing

·2 min read
Campaigners display a hoarding featuring Boris Johnson outside New Scotland Yard in London on Tuesday night - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency
Campaigners display a hoarding featuring Boris Johnson outside New Scotland Yard in London on Tuesday night - Tom Bowles/Story Picture Agency

Police will only launch an investigation into Downing Street party allegations if the Cabinet Office unearths evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Scotland Yard said on Thursday night.

The Metropolitan Police said that rather than carry out its own inquiries into the allegations it would allow the Cabinet Office to complete its work before deciding whether to take matters further.

Pressure has been building on Scotland Yard to launch a full-blown criminal investigation into claims that Downing Street and Whitehall staff breached Covid regulations by attending parties during lockdown.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson told the Commons he had attended a party in the garden of Number 10 on May 20, 2020, but had thought it was a "work event".

The admission prompted Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, to write to Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner, demanding that Mr Johnson be questioned under caution.

But in a statement on Thursday night, Scotland Yard said it did not routinely investigate breaches of the Covid regulations retrospectively and would only do so in this case if "significant evidence" emerged.

A spokesman said: "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 four 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 do 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 the 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."

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