The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that 20 fines are to be handed out for breaches of COVID lockdown rules relating to parties held at 10 Downing Street.
The scandal, dubbed ‘Partygate’ in the press, sparked fury among the general public after Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised and admitted he attended a Downing Street garden party for “25 minutes” during lockdown. It was one of a number of events that have since been investigated.
Scotland Yard have now confirmed today (March 29) that notices for 20 fines relating to the events will be delivered to theACRO Criminal Records Office, who will then administer the fines.
A statement from the Met said: ‘The investigation into allegations of breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street has now progressed to the point where the first referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) will be made to ACRO Criminal Records Office.
‘We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations. The ACRO Criminal Records Office will then be responsible for issuing the FPNs to the individual following the referrals from the MPS.
“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments.
“However, due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made to ACRO if the evidential threshold is made.”
It has not been revealed how many individuals will be fined, the sums of the fines or the identities of those individuals.
Mr Johnson addressed the Commons in January after news of the parties emerged, following pressure from MPs, including his own party. Pressure has been mounting on the PM to confirm whether he had been present at the Downing Street drinks party, at a time when social gatherings were banned.
Johnson said he had “learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right”. The Prime Minister admitted he “went into that garden just after 6pm on 20 May 2020 to thank groups of staff” and said he went back into the office “25 minutes later”. He told MPs: “I believed implicitly that this was a work event.” Johnson continued: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.”
The event took place after the PM’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds sent an email inviting colleagues to “socially distanced drinks” and told them to “bring your own booze”.
Following his admission, opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson should “do the decent thing and resign”, as well as describing the excuse as “so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British people”. He added it was “a clear breach of the ministerial code” and said Johnson is a “pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road”.
Former chief adviser to the PM Dominic Cummings also responded to the explanation, saying the PM’s apology and excuses are “bullshit” as the alternative is to “admit he broke rules + resign”.
Mr Johnson told the Commons: “I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months. I know the anguish they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.”
Acknowledging public anger following the announcement, he continued: “I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead, when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
“And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility.”