Police will investigate claims of illegal parties at Downing Street, Dame Cressida Dick confirms
- Police are investigating 'a number of' claims of illegal parties at Downing Street.
- The probe has been opened after civil servant Sue Gray passed new evidence to the force.
The Metropolitan Police is investigating "a number of" allegations that lockdown-breaking parties took place at Downing Street on multiple occasions, its commissioner said.
Dame Cressida Dick, who has been heavily criticised for the force's failure to open an investigation into various claims thus far, confirmed on Tuesday morning that a probe had been launched after the Cabinet Office inquiry, led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, passed the force sufficient information.
It piles further pressure onto Boris Johnson, who last night was revealed to have attended a party for his 56th birthday on 19th June 2020, while the UK's first lockdown was still in place and such gatherings were banned. Insider understands that Gray is now looking into this alleged event.
Speaking to the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee, Dick was challenged over whether she was "covering for those in power", and had damaged public trust in both the government and her force.
She replied: "We police without fear or favour, we police impartially and in an operationally independent manner."
Dick added: "I absolutely understand there is deep public concern about the allegations that have been in the media over the last several weeks. The vast majority of people have acted responsibly during the pandemic, many people – including my officers – have made huge sacrifices."
The police force had sought to engage, explain, encourage and "as a last resort" moved to enforcement, but "in general" officers had not carried out investigations of breaches that had taken place long before, she insisted.
It would "not normally be a proportionate use of officers' time, to spend their time, after the fact, investigating what could have been thousands of complaints," Dick said.
In order for any investigations to be opened, the alleged offence required evidence, "little ambiguity around the absence of any reasonable defence", and that not investigating may undermine faith in the force.
"I can confirm the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place in Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years, in relation to potential offences of COVID-19 regulations," she said.
"My officers have assessed several other events that appear to have taken place at Downing Street and Whitehall. On the available information, these other events are assessed as not reaching the threshold for criminal investigation."
Dick sought to distance the many officers who police Downing Street and the surrounding areas, saying they have a "very clear role – protective security", and declined to comment further. She would "not be providing a running commentary" on the probe, Dick said.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: "With Boris Johnson's Downing Street now under police investigation, how on earth can he think he can stay on as Prime Minister?"
She added: "Conservative MPs should stop propping him upand he should finally do the decent thing and resign."
Gray had been expected to publish her inquiry this week, however under the terms of reference it is likely that will now be paused.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The investigation being carried out by Sue Gray is continuing. There is ongoing contact with the Metropolitan Police Service."
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