London ball

Prime Minister Johnson escapes new fines as London police end ‘partygate’ probe

A policeman walks past the gate of 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, April 13, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley

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LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) – British police ended their investigation into COVID-19 lockdown parties at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office on Thursday after issuing 126 fines in a scandal that had questioned his leadership.

Johnson has faced numerous calls from opposition politicians and some members of his own party to resign over the ‘partygate’ scandal after it was revealed he and officials had broke strict laws that his government had passed. Read more

He and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were both fined last month for a rally at his office to celebrate his 56th birthday in June 2020, when social mixing was all but banned. His spokesperson said he had not received any other fines.

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The Prime Minister first said that there had been no illegal parties and that all the rules had been followed. But he has since issued a number of “humble” apologies, although he has rejected calls to resign and denied knowingly committing wrongdoing.

Police said their investigation, during which officers reviewed 510 photos and 345 documents, was now complete.

Of the 126 fixed fine notices issued, 83 people were fined – 53 to 35 men and 73 to 48 women.

Johnson’s spokesman said police had confirmed the prime minister would no longer receive fines.

“The Prime Minister is pleased that the investigation has been completed and would like to thank the police for their work,” the spokesman said.

Johnson’s wife, Carrie, who was also fined for Johnson’s birthday party, will also not receive further penalties.

Police said the fines relate to eight dates where events took place in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office between May 2020 and April 2021, when lockdown measures were in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

These included rallies in the Downing Street garden, an online Christmas quiz and parting events for staff.

‘IMPARTIAL’

“Our investigation was thorough and impartial and was completed as quickly as possible, given the amount of information to review and the importance of ensuring we have strong evidence for each referral to the FPN,” said said Helen Ball, Acting Deputy Commissioner of London Police. .

Some of the parties took place as lockdown conditions had forced the closure of restaurants, pubs and businesses, and gatherings with friends and family, including for funerals, were severely restricted. Around 180,000 people have died in Britain from COVID, the seventh highest toll by country in the world.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, reiterated his demand for Johnson to leave.

‘After an investigation which shows over 120 breaches of the law in Downing Street he should of course resign,’ he said.

Starmer is facing a police investigation into a potential lockdown breach over footage from April 2021 that showed him drinking a bottle of beer with colleagues inside during a visit to northeast ‘England. Read more

He announced that he would resign if fined.

The end of the police investigation will not be the end of the case for Johnson.

Opponents accuse him of lying to parliament about the rallies and his privileges committee is investigating whether he misled lawmakers.

More damaging might be the findings of an internal report by senior civil servant Sue Gray. Its tentative findings released in January were that alcohol-fueled events had taken place at Johnson’s offices and residence, and that there had been “serious failures of leadership.”

A Cabinet Office source said it would be released next week.

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Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Angus MacSwan

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