Campaigners have lost a bid to launch a High Court challenge against the Met Police over their handling of the Partygate scandal.
The Good Law Project (GLP) and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met Lord Paddick brought legal action against the police force, after criticising the investigation into the gatherings mentioned in Sue Gray’s infamous report. At the time, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and Rishi Sunak were all among those fined for their participation in Downing Street events which broke lockdown rules.
However, legal action has been halted after Justice Swift refused to grant a full hearing of the case. He argued that he believed that GLP and Lord Paddick has “no prospect of success” in pursuing their case, adding: “It is not for the court to second-guess the steps the police should take for the purposes of investigation.”
The Met Police issued a total of 126 fixed penalty notices to 83 people in Downing Street and Whitehall following the investigation.
Johnson was fined after he and other members of staff were found to have broken strict Covid rules afer holding a birthday party in a cabinet room. A picture from the event showed the former PM and his former Chancellor Sunak both in attendance.
However, Gray’s report also provided evidence for a number of other gatherings. This included a leaving party for the then-communications chief Lee Cain on 13 November 2020, two days after England was placed back under strict Covid rules.
A picture from the gathering showed Johnson toasting the departing Cain, with a wine glass in his hand while surrounding by colleagues and bottles of wine. He also was said to have taken part on a separate leaving party for another two members of staff on 17 December 2020, although no further action was taken byt he Met Police against Johnson for these incidents.
The GLP had argued that the Met Police had failed to send questionnaires or issue a fixed penalty notice to Johnson for gatherings outside of the June 2020 event he had already been fined for. GLP director Jo Maugham said that the group was considering appealing Mr Justice Swift’s decision not to proceed.
He said: “We are disappointed – but sadly not surprised.
“We think this decision ignores the quite proper questions that people have about what they understandably perceive to be differences of treatment between the powerful and the rest of us. It can’t be one rule for those in power, and another rule for us.”