British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be fined over the “partygate” scandal for breaching COVID-19 pandemic lockdown rules following allegations that the government flouted its own pandemic restrictions. Downing Street confirmed that the two senior-most UK government officials had received notification from the Metropolitan Police that they would be given “fixed penalty notices”. Boris Johnson has already been forced to issue an apology over the scandal in Parliament and promised a further statement in the House of Commons at the conclusion of the police investigation.
The Opposition Labour Party immediately demanded the resignation of both Johnson and Sunak over the breach of legal rules imposed by the government during the pandemic. Fixed penalty notices are a sanction for breaking the law and mean a fine needs 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.
While the individuals issued with the fines have not been named by the police, Downing Street had said that the public would be made aware if the Prime Minister or ministers received a fixed penalty notice. A typical fine for breach of COVID rules varies between 50 pounds up to 300 pounds, depending on the severity of the breach. The revelation came as Scotland Yard announced that over 50 fines will be issued to people who organised or attended parties at Downing Street and within UK government offices in Whitehall in London in breach of COVID legislation in place over 2020-2021.
Johnson and his Downing Street neighbour, Indian-origin finance minister Rishi Sunak, were among 100 people who were sent formal legal questionnaires relating to the Metropolitan Police inquiry launched into the partygate scandal in January. 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 sent out over 100 questionnaires seeking information about participation in the events. The Metropolitan Police had launched Operation Hillman following an internal inquiry into what became widely known as the “partygate” scandal. Last month, the police force had confirmed 20 fines, a number which now goes up to at least 30 more fines or “referrals” for so-called fixed penalty notices to the force’s official criminal records unit. “As of Tuesday, April 12, 2022 we have made over 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for breaches of COVID-19 regulations who following the referral issue the FPNs to the individual,” the Met Police said in a statement.
“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made to ACRO Criminal Records Office,” the statement said. Scotland Yard launched its investigation following the conclusion of the internal government inquiry led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, whose report found “failures of leadership and judgement” in government.
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