British police conclude investigation into Johnson’s ‘partygate’ scandal

By SYLVIA HUI Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Metropolitan Police said it had concluded its investigation into breaches of COVID-19 regulations at British government offices, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence, and issued a total of 126 fines. .
Police said on Thursday they had issued fixed fine notices to 53 men and 73 women for rallies that took place on eight dates between May 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the UK, and April 2021. Some people received multiple fines.
The scandal, dubbed “partygate” by the media, was a blow to Johnson’s leadership.
The conclusion of the police investigation means the results of a separate investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray can now be released. Government officials say the Gray report, which is being closely watched as it censors Johnson and his Conservative government, will be released as soon as possible, although unlikely before next week.
Johnson apologized last month after revealing he was among dozens of people who paid a police fine for attending parties and gatherings breaking the lockdown. It made him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.
Revelations that Johnson and other senior officials gathered illegally in government buildings – including taking advantage of “wine hour Fridays” allegedly hosted by Johnson staff – at a time when millions people in the country have complied with the government’s strict lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 have angered voters and sparked calls for Johnson to resign.
Johnson’s spokesman said Thursday he would not receive any more fines on top of the one he has already paid.
“The Met have confirmed that they are taking no further action” against the prime minister, spokesman Max Blain said.
Police are not identifying those who were fined, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, as well as Johnson’s wife Carrie, said they were among those fined with Johnson for attending at a birthday party for the Prime Minister in June 2020.
Johnson repeatedly apologized but denied knowingly breaking the rules. He insisted it “didn’t occur to him” that the gathering in his office, which he said lasted less than 10 minutes, was a party.
Opposition parties reiterated their calls for Johnson’s resignation and said the Gray report should be released without delay.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said there could be “no other hiding places” for Johnson for “industrial-scale breaches” on government sites.
“It reflects a culture and the Prime Minister defines the culture,” he said.
Starmer himself is facing a police investigation into his own conduct during the pandemic – he admitted drinking a beer and curry to go with colleagues in April 2021, when the UK was under restrictions on coronavirus. Starmer insisted the meal was part of a workday and didn’t break any rules.
The COVID-19 group Bereaved Families for Justice has called the police fines a “terrible insult” to anyone who has lost loved ones during the pandemic.
“The cost of almost half a million pounds of this investigation could have been spent on bereavement support services. Instead, it was spent investigating our own government, and all because they lied and didn’t admit they had broken the law,” said Safiah Ngah, who lost her father. due to the virus in February 2021.
More than 177,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for coronavirus, the highest toll in Europe after Russia.
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