UK police issue more than 100 fines over ‘Partygate’ scandal

Officers have issued at least 50 more penalty notices over COVID-19 lockdown rule-breaking gatherings inside government.

A police officer stands on duty outside 10 Downing Street in London, the UK.
Police have been investigating 12 gatherings in total, at least three of which Prime Minister Boris Johnson is known to have attended [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

British police have handed out more than 100 fines as part of their investigation into lockdown rule-breaking gatherings held in Downing Street and other United Kingdom government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an update on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police Service (MET) said its prove into rule breaches remained live, meaning the running total of fines could yet rise further.

It was the first update from the MET on its investigation into the so-called “Partygate” scandal in a month. The service had previously been issuing bulletins every two weeks but delayed revealing the latest figures until after local elections held last week were wrapped up.

In its last update on April 12, the MET said it had issued more than 50 fines as part of “Operation Hillman”, the official name of the investigation into breaches of COVID-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has his official residence.

Police have been investigating 12 gatherings in total, at least three of which Johnson is known to have attended.

Both he and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were among the recipients of the fines handed out in April.

Johnson has apologised for receiving the fine in April, which was issued over his breaking of lockdown rules by attending a June 2020 gathering in his office to celebrate his birthday, but he has refused to resign over the issue.

He could yet receive further fines for other gatherings, and is also facing a parliamentary inquiry into “Partygate” as well as a probe headed by a senior civil servant.

But on Thursday, his spokesperson said the prime minister had not been issued another penalty as part of the latest round of police action.

Johnson’s Conservative Party suffered a slew of losses in last week’s local elections amid public frustration over the COVID-19 breaches and widespread concern about an escalating cost-of-living crisis.

Meanwhile, main opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer is also under mounting pressure after being filmed drinking beer in an MP’s office in April 2021, when coronavirus restrictions were still in place.

Police in northern England launched a probe into the incident last week. Starmer has denied any wrongdoing and said he will resign if officers decide his actions did in fact break rules in place at the time.

“I believe in honour, integrity and the principle that those who make the laws should follow them,” he said on Monday. “If the police decide to issue me with a fixed-penalty notice, I would of course do the right thing and step down.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies