Police end partygate probe with 126 fines – and no further action against PM | Politics News

Police end partygate probe with 126 fines – and no further action against PM | Politics News

Police have concluded their investigation into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall – resulting in a total of 126 fines for 83 people.

The £460,000 probe into the partygate scandal, which has lasted nearly four months, has already resulted in Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak each being fined once over a birthday gathering.

Downing Street said following the conclusion of the probe that the PM had been told that there would be no further action against him.

Politics hub: Sue Gray partygate report likely to come next week

Sky News understands that Carrie Johnson has also been told there will be no further action against her.

The PM’s official spokesman said: “He’s pleased the investigation’s concluded but at no point has it distracted him from the important issues facing the country.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told reporters: “The prime minister’s obviously apologised for the birthday cake incident. I hope now that we can move on to really deal with some of the big issues facing the country.”

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has called for Mr Johnson to quit over his fine, said the investigation had shown “industrial scale law breaking in Downing Street… that reflects a culture and the prime minister sets the culture”.

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Starmer calls on PM to resign

The investigation saw the Metropolitan Police make referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPNs) – which have been or will be issued – in relation to events on eight dates from May 2020 to April 2021.

Police said a team of 12 detectives had trawled through 345 documents including emails, door logs, diary entries and witness statements, 510 photographs and CCTV images and 204 questionnaires in what they described as a “careful and thorough” investigation.

Detectives have not publicly disclosed the identities of those fined. It is known that among them is former government ethics chief Helen MacNamara, who apologised for an “error of judgement”.

Read more: How much did the partygate inquiry cost and which events broke the rules?

The Met said that 28 people had received between two and five penalty notices.

The conclusion of the police investigation clears the way for civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the parties to be published in full.

A source close to her team said the aim was to publish it as soon as possible, with next week likely.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson will “talk in more detail” about the scandal after the report is published.

Partygate has gripped Westminster and prompted calls from opposition parties as well as some Tory MPs for the prime minister to quit.

Mr Johnson also faces a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled the House of Commons about the parties.

Of those who have been referred for fines by the police, 35 were men – with 53 penalties – and 48 were women – with 73 – the Met said.

The fines relate to events on: 20 May 2020, 18 June 2020, 19 June 2020, 13 November 2020, 17 December 2020, 18 December 2020, 14 January 2021 and 16 April 2021.

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‘The PM’s apologies mean absolutely nothing’

Scotland Yard originally said it would not investigate historic breaches of coronavirus rules, but changed its mind and launched an investigation in January of this year.

It said that was based on a number of criteria including whether those involved should have known what they were doing was an offence, whether not doing so would “significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law” and if there was little doubt that there was no defence.

Helen Ball, acting Deputy Commissioner of the Met, said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic impacted all of us in so many ways and strong feelings and opinions have been expressed on this particular issue.

“When COVID regulations were introduced, the Met was clear that whilst we would not routinely investigate breaches of regulations retrospectively, there may be occasions when it would be appropriate to do so.

“The information that we received with regard to the alleged breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall was sufficient to reach our criteria to begin such an investigation.

“Our investigation was thorough and impartial and was completed as quickly as we could, given the amount of information that needed to be reviewed and the importance of ensuring that we had strong evidence for each FPN referral.”

Analysis by Liz Bates, political correspondent

There will be sighs of relief in Downing Street as the Met signals the end to the Downing Street party investigation.

When it began, many Conservative MPs believed their findings could end Boris Johnson’s premiership – with many poised to hand in letters of no confidence.

But despite receiving an FPN the prime minister managed to endure it relatively unscathed, although some of his top team weren’t as lucky – with many cleared out and replaced.

The respite won’t last for that long though, because the end of the Met’s investigation means senior civil servant Sue Gray will be able to publish her own internal inquiry.

In her interim report she didn’t hold back and her scope is broader – she will consider more events and her findings will be much more detailed.

So, partygate is not over quite yet.

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Author: Shirley