Met faces questions about credibility of Partygate inquiry after photos emerge


The new photos from the Partygate saga have left police facing questions about the credibility of their investigation and a former police chief demanding that they explain themselves urgently.

Last week, the Metropolitan police ended its investigation into a string of Downing Street and Whitehall parties having issued Boris Johnson with only one fine. Westminster insiders say the prime minister had been a willing participant at several social gatherings that breached lockdown rules, yet the police decision appeared to suggest he had broken no rules.

The former Met police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick said public confidence in the Met was being further damaged by the revelations.

Lord Paddick, a Liberal Democrat peer, said it should have been obvious to the Met that photos would become public and undermine the credibility of their decision-making, which was already hugely debated.

Paddick said: “It is naive of the Met to think the person who supplied them with the photos would not supply them to the media if the police decided not to take action against him over other events.

“The public will want to know what more evidence the police needed to give the prime minister a fixed-penalty notice, when the photos appear to show beyond reasonable doubt that he should have been issued with one.”

The Met on Monday declined to answer any further questions after the photos emerged showing Johnson at an event for which he was not fined. The prime minister has a glass in his hand, and is surrounded by others clutching glasses. Copious bottles of wine and other drinks can be seen. The Met said: “We are not adding to our last statement.”

Cooper said: “The Metropolitan police has so far failed to offer any statement of clarification regarding their decision-making process. They have not set out the evidential thresholds which they used to determine whether FPNs should be issued.

“The result of this lack of transparency is that the release of photographs such as that of the prime minister drinking in Downing Street, on an occasion for which he was not fined, will likely create considerable public confusion.

“In particular, it is hard to understand why some individuals, in particular more junior members of staff, who attended the same gatherings as the prime minister received questionnaires and FPNs, while the prime minister did not.”

The Met is already expected to face questions before the London assembly, which has a role in holding Britain’s largest force to account.

Paddick said the Met’s silence had to end, since apparently clear-cut evidence was emerging: “The police need to explain why when, given this evidence, they did not issue the PM with another fixed-penalty notice.”

Johnson was issued with a fine for an event in the cabinet room at No 10 on his birthday, which was said to be a surprise.

As part of the evidence-gathering process for the Met investigation, called Operation Hillman, a team of 12 officers studied 510 photographs and CCTV images.

The Met initially declined to investigate, but then in January reversed its decision, after Sue Gray’s inquiry for the Cabinet Office unearthed material of concern.

Acting deputy commissioner Helen Ball said the 126 fines issued followed police obtaining “clear-cut” evidence of breaches.

Source: The Guardian