London: Scotland Yard confirmed Tuesday that it will fine 20 people who organised or attended parties at Downing Street and within UK government offices in Whitehall here in breach of Covid-19 lockdown rules at the time.
The Metropolitan Police had launched Operation Hillman following an internal inquiry into what became widely known as the ‘partygate’ scandal, which led British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to issue an apology in Parliament.
While the individuals issued with the fines have not been named by the police, the UK Prime Minister’s spokesperson said Johnson was not one of those who had received the so-called ‘fixed penalty notice’ at this stage of the ongoing police investigation.
“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations,” the Met Police said in a statement Tuesday.
The force said that under the College of Policing guidelines, the ‘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 Met Police said. It added that ‘significant amount of investigative material’ still remains to be assessed and further fines are likely.
Fixed penalty notices are a sanction for breaking the law and mean a fine need to be paid within 28 days unless contested. If someone chooses to contest the fine, the police will then review the case and decide whether to withdraw the fine or take the matter to court.
The police have been investigating 12 events that may have breached coronavirus lockdown rules in place in 2020-2021, including several believed to have been attended by Boris Johnson. One was a surprise birthday gathering for him in the Cabinet room at Downing Street in June 2020.
As part of their inquiries, the police have sent out over 100 questionnaires seeking information about participation in the events. The UK Prime Minister was among those 100 who were sent formal legal questionnaires relating to Operation Hillman, which was launched in January.
Several Conservative MPs had earlier called for Johnson to resign over the partygate scandal, but much of that rebellion has died down amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.