Partygate probe wasn't thorough as police didn't want to upset No10, says ex-Met chief

23 May 2022, 19:24

By Megan Hinton

A former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has claimed the force may not have investigated Partygate "as thoroughly as they could have done" in a bid to avoid upsetting Downing Street.

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Lord Brian Paddick hit out at the forces decision to issue just one fine to the Prime Minister after leaked photographs showed him drinking alcohol at a lockdown-breaking party, which he was not fined over.

In the images, obtained by ITV News, the Prime Minister is seen raising a glass with colleagues at No10, with several bottles of wine spotted on one table.

Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr, the former Met chief said: "I think the Met have got a real problem here because the public will look at the photograph and say... 'what more proof do you need'.

"The Met has got to come up with an answer to that question and at the moment they appear to be not saying anything at all."

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He compared the situation to the phone hacking scandal, saying: "Questions are going to be asked, why was the Met not looking into this, why did the Met not prosecute the Prime Minister in these circumstances."

He added: "It's very damaging for the Met when the public see these photographs and Met seem unable to provide an explanation as to why.

"The Met I think did not investigate phone hacking because they didn't want to upset their friends in the media, and I think that they may not have investigated this as thoroughly as they could have done because they didn't want to upset number 10."

Read more: Boris Johnson pictured raising a glass at Downing Street party during lockdown

Boris Johnson has been pictured at a lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street on November 13 2020
Boris Johnson has been pictured at a lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street on November 13 2020. Picture: ITV News

The Met announced on Thursday morning that Operation Hillman has resulted in 126 fixed penalty notices (FPN) being dished out to those who were found to have broken lockdown rules.

A total of 53 men and 73 women received fines, with the Met saying 28 received between two and five FPNs.

No10 said that Mr Johnson did not receive a second fine and was "pleased" the investigation had concluded.

The fines related to events on eight separate dates including 20 May 2020, 18 June 2020, 19 June 2020, 13 November 2020, 17 December 2020, 18 December 2020, 14 January 2021 and 16 April 2021.

But today the four photographs cast fresh doubt on Mr Johnson's defence that he was unaware of rule-breaking during the pandemic.

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ITV's UK Editor Paul Brand tweeted an image showing the Prime Minister surrounded by a group of people, whose faces are blurred.

They appear to be at a leaving do for Downing Street’s then Director of Communications Lee Cain, ITV said.

Eight people are pictured standing closely together, as well as the photographer.

The Prime Minister previously denied a party happened in Downing Street on November 13.

Mr Johnson told the Commons on December 1 2021 that "all the rules were followed at all times".

Read more: No 10 admits it initiated controversial meeting between Boris Johnson and Sue Gray

Crime and policing commentator Danny Shaw added: "I think we have to remember first of all that the Metropolitan Police wanted to be absolutely certain that if they issued a fixed penalty notice to anyone that that would stand up in court.

"There must have been some element of doubt in the police's mind which has stopped them from issuing a fixed penalty notice to the Prime Minister for that particular event.

"Whether that's because he presented a reasonable excuse saying it was a work event, that perhaps he was in the room only for a very short period of time and that actually saying goodbye to a colleague in that way was reasonably necessary for work purposes... I don't know."