The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into “a number of occurrences” in Downing Street and Whitehall relating to potential breaches of coronavirus regulations.
“I can confirm that the Met are currently investigating a number of events that have taken place in Downing Street and Whitehall over the past two years in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations,” the commissioner said. Met Police Cressida Dick at the London Assembly.
Live reaction and fallout during the launch of the police investigation – the latest policy
Commissioner Dick said the decision to investigate was made following information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry into the gatherings and “my officers’ own assessment”.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said that this investigation, led by senior civil servant Sue Gray “is continuing”, and that there is “ongoing contact” with the Met.
Sky News understands Ms Gray’s report will not be published while the Met’s investigation is ongoing.
How did we get here?
Disclosures about a series of rallies in Downing Street and a number of government departments during the COVID restrictions in 2020 and 2021 have put pressure on Boris Johnson, with the Prime Minister facing calls for his resignation from opposition parties and of some of his own backbenchers.
In the latest revelation, Number 10 admitted the Prime Minister celebrated his birthday in Downing Street during the first COVID lockdown in 2020.
Mr Johnson previously admitted to attending a garden party in Downing Street in May that year, which was described by one of his aides as a ‘bring your own booze’ event.
But he claimed he thought it was a “work event” and that “nobody told me” it was against the rules.
The revelation that officials held two parties in Downing Street the day before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral in April last year has also caused furor.
Number 10 later apologized to the Queen and said Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day.
What happens now?
The Met wrote to the Cabinet Office on Tuesday morning formally asking it to return all relevant information from its inquiry into the events under investigation to support the force’s work.
At this point, there is no estimate of how long his investigation will take.
Commissioner Dick said the force would not make “routine comment on our ongoing investigations”, but updates would be provided at “significant points”.
And she said that the fact that police are now investigating a number of events does not mean that fixed penalty notices “will necessarily be issued in all cases and to each person involved”.
Police had assessed ‘several other events’ which appeared to have taken place in Downing Street and Whitehall but were not believed to have met the threshold of a criminal investigation, the London Assembly Commissioner said .
“We police without fear or favor”
Ahead of her statement, Commissioner Dick was told that public confidence in the Met had ‘seriously diminished’ given how the Downing Street parties had gone in such close proximity to officers in the force.
But defending the force, she said: “We police without fear or favour. We police impartially and we police operationally independently.”
Commissioner Dick said she understood the “deep concern of the public” about the allegations.
She added: “The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic, many, many people – including many Londoners and my colleagues – have made huge sacrifices and suffered huge losses during the pandemic. .”