The Metropolitan Police has today confirmed it has identified the first batch of people to be hit with fixed-penalty notice fines for attending get-togethers in Downing Street and other parts of Whitehall in contravention of Covid regulations.
A statement from the force said its criminal investigation into the Partygate affair, covering events between May 2020 and April 2021, had reached the stage where the first referrals for so-called FPNs would be made to the UK police service’s ACRO Criminal Records Office.
Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak are known to be among more than 100 people to have received formal interview questionnaires from the police in relation to Partygate. Answers provided form the basis on which decisions to issue FPNs will be made.
Earlier this year Johnson apologised in parliament for attending a bring-your-own-booze party in the No.10 garden in May 2020, but went on to claim he believed the function was a “work event”.
Last month the PM’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and director of comms Jack Doyle resigned. All had been linked to different Partygate events.
The former director general of the Cabinet Office’s Covid Task Force, Kate Josephs, is among the officials who have openly acknowledged attending Partygate events – and who have apologised for doing so. One of the events under investigation by the Met was a leaving party hosted for Josephs, who left Whitehall in late 2020 to become chief executive of Sheffield City Council. She is currently on paid leave from that role.
In its statement this morning, the Metropolitan Police said it would not name the recipients of Partygate fines, which it said was in line with practice for other fixed-penalty fines, like speeding tickets. It said it would also not identify numbers of FPNs issued for individual events.
“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments,” a spokesperson said.
“However, due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed, further referrals may be made to ACRO if the evidential threshold is made.
“As it has for all fixed penalty notices issued during the pandemic, the MPS will follow the College of Policing approved professional practice for media relations which states that ‘identities of people dealt with by cautions, speeding fines and other fixed penalties – out-of-court disposals – should not be released or confirmed’.
“We will not confirm the number of referrals from each individual event subject to our investigation as providing a breakdown at this point may lead to identification of the individuals.”
The force's stance is unlikely to prevent demands for ministers and senior officials to confirm whether they have been fined for attending Partygate events, however.
The Met’s criminal investigation into Partygate was launched in January by then-chief constable Cressida Dick after the Cabinet Office’s internal investigation, headed by second permanent secretary Sue Gray, began to find an expanding picture of allegedly rule-breaking events. The force had repeatedly rejected calls to launch a criminal investigation in the weeks before.
A stripped-down update on Gray’s investigation, published later in January, looked at 16 events in Downing Street, the Cabinet Office, and other departments. Gray said there had been “failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No.10 and the Cabinet Office at different times”.
Gray said some events should not have been allowed to take place, while others should not have been allowed to develop as they did.
The Met’s investigations looked at 12 of the events examined by Gray. Among of them were Josephs’ 17 December 2020 leaving party and the No.10 party in May of that year.