Scotland Yard is investigating “a number of events” in Downing Street and Whitehall in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said on Tuesday (25 January) that the force is investigating allegations of coronavirus rule-breaking from over the last two years, after being passed information from the Sue Gray inquiry.
Dame Cressida said the criteria for investigating past breaches of Covid-19 rules has been met thanks to information provided by the Cabinet Office along with the force’s own officers.
She told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee: “We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office, who have an investigative capability.
“As you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.
“What I can tell you this morning is that as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and, secondly, my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.”
The police commissioner said that the investigation does not necessarily mean fixed penalty notices will be issued in every instance and to every person involved, adding that updates on the findings will be given “at significant points”.
She also declined to say which alleged parties are being investigated, nor would she put a timeline on when officers could detail their findings.
What criteria has been met to justify investigation?
The police commissioner said it would “not normally be” a proportionate use of the force’s resources to investigate historic allegations of Covid breaches, but told London Assembly members that investigations were carried out for “the most serious and flagrant type of breach”, where there was evidence and three criteria were met.
She explained: “My three factors were and are: there was evidence that those involved knew, or ought to have known that what they were doing was an offence.
“Where not investigating would significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law.
“And where there was little ambiguity around the absence of any reasonable defence.
“So in those cases, where those criteria were met, the guidelines suggested that we should potentially investigate further and end up giving people tickets.”
Dame Cressida added that the force has "assessed several other events that appear to have taken place" at Downing Street and Whitehall, but they were not thought to have reached the threshold for criminal investigation.
Will the Sue Gray inquiry be delayed?
Sue Gray’s investigation into gatherings held at No 10 and across Whitehall will continue after the Metropolitan Police said it will probe “a number of events”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing.
“There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service.”
The publication of the senior official’s report was expected this week, but it will now reportedly be delayed while the police investigation carry out their investigation.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said that means her report “will not be published this week and probably not for many weeks”, but Ms Gray will be continuing her investigation.
The latest investigation plunges Boris Johnson further into jeopardy ahead of Ms Gray’s inquiry, particularly as fresh revelations revealed he attended a ‘birthday celebration’ inside Downing Street during the first lockdown in 2020.
A total of 30 people allegedly gathered in No 10 on the afternoon of 19 June 2020 and shared cake, despite social mixing indoors being banned under lockdown laws at the time.
Downing Street conceded that staff “gathered briefly” inside the Cabinet Room following a meeting to mark the Prime Minister’s birthday, but said Mr Johnson only attended for 10 minutes.
Around 17 allegations of rule-breaking events have now been levelled across Downing Street, wider government and the Tory party.
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