London police stated Tuesday that they are investigating Downing Street lockdowns in 2020, to see if U.K government officials have violated coronavirus restrictions. This puts more pressure on Boris Johnson.
The Metropolitan Police Service has launched an inquiry into “a number of events” at Downing Street because they met the force’s criteria for investigating the “most serious and flagrant” breaches of COVID-19 rules, Commissioner Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, the capital’s local government council.
Johnson faces calls for resignation amid reports that he was among the party-goers at a number of events during 2020’s spring and winter. This period saw most social gatherings banned in England. It also meant ordinary citizens were unable to attend weddings, funerals or birthdays. Friends and family members died unassisted in hospitals. A senior civil servant Sue Gray is already investigating the gatherings. Her report, due this week, will help determine whether Johnson can stay in power.
Johnson apologized to Downing Street for hosting a May 2020 party, but stated that he considered the event a work function and fell under the rules of social distancing.
ITV News reports that Johnson hosted a birthday party at Downing Street and then invited friends to his official residence upstairs, which was revealed by ITV News on Monday night. He denied the lockdown violation and said his office had hosted the Prime Minister a limited number of relatives outdoors. This was consistent with the rules.
Sadiq Khan of London welcomed the police probe.
“The public rightly expect the police to uphold the law without fear or favor, no matter who that involves, and I have been clear that members of the public must be able to expect the highest standards from everyone, including the Prime Minister and those around him,” Khan said in a statement. “No one is above the law. There cannot be one rule for the government and another for everyone else.”
Police have previously faced criticism for suggesting that they wouldn’t investigate the “partygate” scandal because they don’t routinely investigate historical breaches of coronavirus regulations.
But Dick told the assembly that an investigation was warranted in this case because there is evidence that those involved knew or should have known that what they were doing was illegal, not investigating would “significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law,” and there seems to be no reasonable defense for the conduct.
“So in those cases, where those criteria were met, the guidelines suggested that we should potentially investigate further and end up giving people tickets,” she said.