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UK police issue 126 fines as Downing Street 'partygate' inquiry ends

UK police issue 126 fines as Downing Street 'partygate' inquiry ends

A police officer walks past the door of Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, Apr 13, 2022. (File photo: Reuters/John Sibley)

LONDON: British police said on Thursday (May 19) they had ended their investigation into COVID-19 lockdown parties held at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office, saying they had issued a total of 126 fines.

Johnson has faced widespread calls from opposition politicians and some in his own party for him to resign over the "partygate" scandal after it was revealed both he and officials had broken stringent laws his government had made.

He and finance minister Rishi Sunak were themselves both fined last month over a gathering in his office to celebrate his 56th birthday in June 2020 when social mixing was all but banned.

The prime minister initially said there had been no illegal parties and all rules were followed. But he has since offered a number of "humble" apologies, although he denied knowingly committing any wrongdoing.

Police said their investigation, which involved 12 officers who examined 510 photos during their inquiries, had now concluded. Of the 126 fixed penalty notices issued, 53 were given to men and 73 to women, with some people receiving more than fine.

A Downing Street source said Johnson had not received notification of another fine "at this stage".

"Our investigation was thorough and impartial and was completed as quickly as we could, given the amount of information that needed to be reviewed and the importance of ensuring that we had strong evidence for each FPN referral," London Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball said.

Police said the fines related to eight dates when events were held at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office between May 2020 and April 2021 when lockdown measures were in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

These included gatherings in the Downing Street garden, an online Christmas quiz, and leaving events for staff.

Some of the parties took place while lockdown conditions had forced the closure of restaurants, pubs and businesses, and meetings with friends and family, including for funerals, were severely restricted.

About 180,000 people have died in Britain from COVID-19, the seventh highest toll by country in the world.

In January, an interim report by senior civil servant Sue Gray concluded that alcohol-fuelled events had taken place at Johnson's offices and residence at Downing Street.

Gray's full report, which commentators say could contain further damaging revelations, was withheld until the end of the police inquiries and a Cabinet Office source said it would be published next week.

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Source: Reuters/ng
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