Update - investigation into alleged Covid breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall
Following the publication of Sue Gray’s update, we can now confirm that we will be investigating eight of the 12 dates considered by the Cabinet Office as part of their own investigation into alleged gatherings on Government premises during Covid restrictions.
The dates we will be looking at will be:
- 20 May 2020;
- 18 June 2020;
- 19 June 2020;
- 13 November 2020;
- 17 December 2020;
- 18 December 2020;
- 14 January 2021;
- 16 April 2021.
Our position from the start has been that, while we don’t normally investigate breaches reported long after they are said to have taken place, if significant evidence became available we would assess it. That is now the situation and why we have acted.
As part of the investigation it is necessary for us to contact those who attended these events to get their account. As a result, the Met has requested that any information identified as part of the Cabinet Office investigation about these events, is not disclosed in detail. This request only applies for the duration of our investigation and does not apply to events we are not investigating.
The reason this request is necessary is that in any investigation officers seek independent accounts from each individual, as free from the influence of others’ recollections as possible. Officers would also seek to avoid providing details of their investigation in advance to those they contact, so that individuals are not tempted to shape their accounts according to what is in the public domain.
This is a standard approach in all investigations to ensure that how people engage with our investigation is not prejudiced, and not a judgement on the individuals who attended these specific events.
Having received the documentation from the Cabinet Office on Friday 28 January, we are now reviewing it at pace to confirm which individuals will need to be contacted for their account. This prioritisation will include reviewing all the material from the Cabinet Office, which includes more than 300 images and over 500 pages of information.
If following an investigation, officers believe it is appropriate, because the Covid regulations have been breached without a reasonable excuse, a fixed penalty notice would normally be issued. Once the penalty is paid, the matter is considered closed. Alternatively individuals may decide to dispute the notice. In these circumstances officers will consider whether to pursue the matter in a magistrates' court.
We do understand that the Met’s action in assessing and responding to these allegations will divide opinion. However police officers must, based on the information available to them, make carefully considered, difficult decisions, even when to do so is contentious.
We understand the interest in and impact of this case, and will be progressing the investigation at pace. We are committed to completing our investigations proportionately, fairly and impartially.
Background: At the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on 25 January, the Commissioner set out the approach the Met has taken with regard to breaches of the Health Protection Regulations. This included the guidelines on where the Met would consider investigating breaches retrospectively. The Commissioner's statement is available at the following link: https://resources.mynewsdesk.com/image/upload/fl_attachment/jkw5qkt5uiwfwesowxeo