The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that the number of fines issued in relation to Covid-restrictions-breaking parties in Downing Street and Whitehall has doubled over the past month.
In an update today on its Operation Hillman investigations into pandemic regulation breaches at the heart of government, the force said the total number of fixed-penalty notices handed out to politicians, special advisers and civil servants was now “more than 100”.
Last month the force said it had issued 30 more fines, taking the total to more than 50. While the Met says it will not name those issued with fines, Downing Street has confirmed both prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak have received penalty notices in earlier batches of fines.
Johnson is widely expected to receive additional fines as his presence at more than one of the get-togethers under investigation has been documented. He is not believed to have received an additional fine in the latest round of FPNs, however.
The prime minister is also due to face an inquiry into whether he misled parliament with his previous assurances about the Downing Street gatherings, in the light of evidence that has subsequently emerged and his fine.
Last month, former deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara admitted being among the first tranche of recipients of a Partygate-related FPN. Her £50 fine related to a karaoke party marking the departure of then-No.10 private secretary Hannah Young in June 2020. MacNamara has been chief policy and corporate affairs officer at the Premier League since last May.
In its update today, the Met said its Partygate investigations – sparked by Cabinet Office second permanent secretary Sue Gray’s in-house probe into potentially rule-breaking events – was not at an end, suggesting further Partygate-related fines will be issued.
“As of Thursday 12 May, Operation Hillman, the investigation into breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street, has made more than 100 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office,” it said.
“These referrals have continued to be made throughout the period since our last update on Tuesday 12 April and the investigation remains live.”
The Met’s criminal investigation into Partygate was launched in January by then-chief constable Cressida Dick after the Cabinet Office’s internal investigation began to uncover 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 former Covid Taskforce director general Kate Josephs’ 17 December 2020 leaving party at the Cabinet Office, and a No.10 party in May of that year.