Police are still refusing to investigate the Downing Street lockdown garden party held in the first Covid lockdown, despite email evidence showing that 100 people were invited and Boris Johnson admitting he went.
Scotland Yard suggested it would wait until a Cabinet Office inquiry led by civil servant Sue Gray concludes before deciding whether to launch a criminal investigation.
This is despite the fact that Gray’s investigation is internal, not independent – and that Downing Street said Gray’s inquiry would be paused if Scotland Yard opened an investigation.
In a letter given to the Mirror and ITV News, the Good Law Project threatened fresh legal action if the Met fail to investigate, and warned such refusal is likely to be illegal.
Letter from Good Law Project
The letter read: “Our client considers, based on the currently available evidence, that a decision not to investigate the 20 May 2020 party is likely to be unlawful, for reasons similar to those set out in our pre-action correspondence regarding the 18 December 2020 party.
“In particular, there are strong grounds for ‘retrospectively’ investigating this matter as (i) there is clear evidence (certainly sufficient to justify further investigation) including documentary evidence of multiple breaches of the regulations,
“(ii) those concerned are likely to have known they were breaching the regulations, not least because there have been multiple reports of individuals within government warning Mr Reynolds that the event would be unlawful,
“(iii) there is a high public interest in ensuring that those who make the law also keep to the law; this is particularly the case whilst there are still coronavirus regulations in place which must be adhered to by everyone and public trust in those making the laws is essential,
“(iv) the ongoing Sue Gray inquiry should not preclude the MPS from pursuing its own investigations as it is an internal not an ‘independent’ investigation,
“And (v) there has been reporting of an instruction within government to destroy relevant evidence (which itself would potentially be a criminal offence) which demonstrates the high risk in delaying your investigation.”
Boris Johnson shocks MPs after public apology
The letter comes after Boris Johnson admitted he spent 25 minutes talking to staff in the No 10 garden on 20 May 2020 – but claimed he thought the gathering was a work event.
Although he said he “should have sent everyone back inside”, his aide Martin Reynolds told staff before the gathering to “bring their own booze”.
All social gatherings between different households in gardens were prohibited at the time.
Johnson is said to have gone to the Commons tearooms after he apologised to the public, and surprise MPs with his attitude.
A Tory MP told the Financial Times: “He said that sometimes in life you get the credit for things you don’t deserve, while sometimes you get the blame for something you don’t deserve, too.
“He goes through his life thinking he doesn’t deserve the blame.”
Met Police response
A Met Police spokesperson said they are aware of “widespread reporting” regarding “alleged breaches” of Covid rules by government officials on various dates and received correspondence regarding this reporting.
The spokesperson added: “Throughout the pandemic the Met has followed the national 4 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.”