Partygate: Ex-senior Met Police officer 'flabbergasted' PM not fined for lockdown drinks

May 24, 2022

Scotland Yard was "dragged kicking and screaming" into launching its partygate investigation so it was flawed from the start, a former senior Met officer has told Sky News.

Retired chief superintendent Dal Babu said the decision to give Boris Johnson only one fine for breaking COVID laws means the entire operation will be questioned.

He said a new photograph of Boris Johnson drinking with colleagues at a Number 10 gathering, standing beside a table with bottles of wine, is clear evidence of the prime minister committing a second offence.

He said he was "flabbergasted" the prime minister was not fined for that event.

Police decided not to give Mr Johnson a fine after questioning him about the gathering on 13 November 2020, when the latest COVID regulations banned social gatherings of more than two people.

He had already been fined £50 for attending a birthday party thrown for him by colleagues in Downing Street five months earlier.

Mr Babu said: "What people will wonder is if there is this really clear evidence of an offence, what else have the Met investigators missed?"

The former officer and I sat studying the photograph as controversy raged over the Met's decision to fine at least one other person at the gathering, but not Mr Johnson.

Mr Babu added: "Look at the picture, you've got the prime minister standing with a glass of wine, empty wine bottles so the drinking has been going on for some time, there are nibbles on the table.

"He said there were no parties, but this is clearly a party, which was illegal at the time."

I pointed out the official red box beside the PM, evidence that perhaps he was at work as he claimed and had popped into the room briefly to say goodbye to a colleague who was leaving.

"That doesn't look like work," replied Mr Babu.

"I can't see how this isn't a breach of the regulations at the time. I'm just flabbergasted he wasn't fined.

"At least one other person present did get a fine, so why not the prime minister?"

The Met has come under severe criticism after concluding its nearly four-month investigation into the partygate allegations.

Scotland Yard said last year it would not investigate alleged COVID law-breaking in Downing Street and Whitehall, because of its policy not to routinely probe historic breaches.

But in January, commissioner Cressida Dick suddenly announced there would be an investigation after all, after new evidence was passed on by the Cabinet Office and uncovered by her own detectives.

"They were reluctant to do it and having decided to investigate there was no transparency and openness," said Mr Babu.

"There is a lack of trust in the whole operation and the police regulator the Independent Office for Police Conduct should launch its own investigation into how the Met dealt with it."

The police watchdog confirmed on Tuesday it has received a complaint from the Lib Dems over the Met's investigation and is handing it over to the Met, as is legally required, who will determine whether a referral is required.

In the complaint, the Lib Dems urged them to establish how Met detectives reached a conclusion to not fine the PM for events on 13 November 2020 after the photo showed him at it.

The government is set to come under further scrutiny this week as a report led by top civil servant Sue Gray is set to be released, which looked at more parties than the Met did.

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