Anger over the Partygate scandal has been reignited after Scotland Yard confirmed that it did not send questionnaires to Boris Johnson before deciding against fining him for attending two Downing Street lockdown gatherings.
Fines were issued to other attenders at the gatherings in 2020, including one at No 10 on 13 November, where the prime minister gave a leaving speech for his departing director of communications, Lee Cain, and another in the Cabinet Office on 17 December.
Downing Street has previously reported that Johnson did not receive police questionnaires relating to some lockdown events. But the revelation on Monday is thought to be the first time the Metropolitan police has admitted this, under details released as part of a legal challenge.
The Good Law Project (GLP), a non-profit campaign group that has brought a judicial review over accusations that the Met failed to fully investigate Johnson’s presence at parties, said: “The Met’s actions have raised serious concerns about the deferential way in which they are policing those in power.
“We don’t think the Met’s response is consistent with their legal duty of candour. And we certainly don’t think it’s consistent with what the Met has elsewhere granted is their public duty to maintain public confidence in policing.”
The group is taking action in concert with Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat peer and former senior police officer.
In a document summarizing the Met’s response to the challenge, released by the GLP, the force said it could confirm no questionnaire was sent to Johnson for the two 2020 gatherings. It confirmed it sent one in relation to a gathering held on 14 January 2021.
Johnson received a single £50 fine in April for breaking Covid laws at a birthday party thrown for him in June 2020.
In its response to the GLP, Scotland Yard said investigating officers had examined hundreds of documents including emails, diary entries, witness statements and CCTV images.
Questionnaires were a useful part of the investigation, but if answers were clear from other evidence, “there was little to be gained” from sending one to a particular person simply for them to confirm what was already known, and there was no duty to send one, it was said.
The Met said Operation Hillman, the probe into Partygate, had concluded and that it would not comment on the steps taken in the course of the investigation.
There was an angry reaction from former officials embroiled in the police inquiry, including one who pointed out that Rishi Sunak received a fixed-penalty notice for his presence at the end of Johnson’s birthday party, which the then chancellor was said to have wandered into as I have prepared for another meeting.
Jo Maugham, director of the GLP, said: “Johnson isn’t going to be prime minister for much longer. But, for me, this continues to be about what it was always about: trust in policing and the rule of law. Seventy-two per cent of voters think there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Why won’t the Met address that perception? Why won’t they just say what happened?”
No 10 declined to comment, referring queries to Scotland Yard.