Downing Street parties: Met Police deny delaying publication of Sue Gray report

Scotland Yard has asked for the Whitehall inquiry into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street to make only "minimal reference" to the events being investigated by police.Scotland Yard has asked for the Whitehall inquiry into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street to make only "minimal reference" to the events being investigated by police.
Scotland Yard has asked for the Whitehall inquiry into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street to make only "minimal reference" to the events being investigated by police.

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The Met Police have said they have not delayed the release of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties.

The Metropolitan Police have said they have received the material they requested from the Cabinet Office to support their investigation into possible breaches of Covid rules in Downing Street and Whitehall.

Earlier, the force said they had asked for “minimal reference” to be made in Sue Gray’s “partygate” report to the events being investigated.

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Scotland Yard insisted that officers had not asked for the report to be delayed, or placed any further restrictions on other events.

This position was reiterated in a statement by Commander Catherine Roper tonight, who said that detectives were now investigating the events “without fear or favour”.

Downing Street declined to comment after the Metropolitan Police said it had not delayed publication of the Sue Gray inquiry and stressed the timing of its release was a matter for the Cabinet Office.

The force previously argued the constraints on the Cabinet Office report into partygate were necessary to “avoid any prejudice to our investigation”.

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The new statement, issued on Friday evening, contains no mention of the term “prejudice”.

What did the Met Police say?

Commander Roper, who leads the Met’s Central Specialist Crime Command, said they had not delayed Sue Gray’s report.

She said detectives from the Special Enquiry Team, which is leading the investigation, were now examining the material handed over by the Cabinet Office “in detail to establish whether individuals attending the events in question may have breached the regulations. They will do so without fear or favour following our normal processes”.

She added: “In order to protect the integrity of the police investigation, as is appropriate in any case, and to be as fair as possible to those who are subject to it, the Met has asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report to the relevant events.

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“This will only be necessary until these matters are concluded and is to give detectives the most reliable picture of what happened at these events. We intend to complete our investigations promptly, fairly and proportionately.

“We have not delayed this report and the timing of its release is a matter for the Cabinet Office inquiry team.”

‘Investigations will be proportionate’

Ms Roper added: “The offences under investigation, where proven, would normally result in the issuing of a fixed penalty notice; accordingly, our investigative actions will be proportionate to the nature of these offences.

“Individuals who are identified as having potentially breached these regulations will normally be contacted in writing and invited to explain their actions including whether they feel they had a reasonable excuse.

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“Following this process, and where there is sufficient evidence that individuals have breached the regulations without reasonable excuse, officers will decide if enforcement action is appropriate. If the decision is to take enforcement action then a report will be sent to the ACRO Criminal Records Office which will issue the fixed penalty notice. Recipients can pay the fixed penalty and the matter will be considered closed.

“Should a recipient dispute the fixed penalty notice then the case will be referred back to the Met where officers will consider whether to pursue the matter in a magistrates’ court.

“As the Commissioner said, we will not be giving a running commentary but we will continue to update when significant progress is made in the investigative process.”

The Prime Minister has been anxiously awaiting the report from Ms Gray, who is investigating a series of events in Downing Street and across Whitehall which allegedly broke lockdown rules.

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The report has the potential to trigger a vote of no confidence in his leadership by Tory MPs angered over the alleged breaches.

The official inquiry has been long-awaited but its publication was thrown into disarray earlier this week when Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick announced that her officers had opened a criminal investigation.

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