Pandemic parties: UK police fine 20 people in Downing Street scandal

The Metropolitan Police force said it wouldn’t identify recipients of the fixed penalty notices

By Prasun Sonwalkar

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

Published: Tue 29 Mar 2022, 2:06 PM

Pushed out of headlines by Russian hostilities in Ukraine, the politically-sensitive issue of parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall when Britain was under tight Covid-19 curbs was revived on Tuesday with Scotland Yard announcing that offences were committed and 20 fixed penalty notices were being issued.

The issue – dubbed ‘partygate’ in the British news media – threatened to dislodge Boris Johnson as the prime minister, with widespread anger that the restrictions imposed by the government were not being followed by those at the heart of the government, allegedly including Johnson.

Several ruling Conservative MPs had expressed lack of confidence in Johnson, calling for his replacement. Many MPs have been awaiting the outcome of the police investigation before taking a stand on Johnson's future, while there was much speculation of who could replace Johnson: chancellor Rishi Sunak or foreign secretary Liz Truss, or others.

The issue was first investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who criticised Downing Street in an interim report, and handed over photos and other material to the police for further investigation and to issue fixed penalty notices.

The police said in a statement that the 20 notices were an initial number, since the investigation is continuing, raising the prospect that more could be issued. The police have interviewed several individuals as part of the investigation.

Those issued fixed penalty notices cannot be named under rules, but Downing Street has confirmed that if Johnson is issued one, it would be revealed publicly.


The police said in a statement: “The investigation into allegations of breaches of Covid-19 regulations in Whitehall and Downing Street has now progressed to the point where the first referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) will be made to ACRO Criminal Records Office”.

“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations. The ACRO Criminal Records Office will then be responsible for issuing the FPNs to the individual following the referrals from the MPS”.

“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments. 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”, it added.

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