Met Police: Investigate the Downing Street Christmas Party

by Good Law Project

Met Police: Investigate the Downing Street Christmas Party

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project uses the law for a better world.
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on 11th January 2022
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pledged of £100,000 stretch target from 5,067 pledges
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project uses the law for a better world.

Latest: July 25, 2022

New revelations about gaps in the Met Partygate investigation

The Met Police have, at last, admitted they didn't send questionnaires to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, before deciding not to fine him for attending a gathering in No.10 on 13 November 2020…

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In the very building where the rules were being made, were they also being broken? 

In 2020, as the country went into a strict Covid-19 lockdown, No 10 staff were reportedly having Christmas parties. And videos have emerged of those closest to Boris Johnson, including his then press secretary, laughing as they practised how to lie to us about it.

Multiple reports have emerged that parties took place in November and December in Government buildings - clearly breaching ‘tier 3’ restrictions. Yet, unbelievably, the Met Police claim there isn’t enough evidence to open a criminal investigation into this.

So before Christmas, we wrote to the Met asking them to explain or reverse their refusal to investigate these alleged unlawful parties. Since then, yet another Downing Street Party has come to light.

We’ve now received the Met’s response - but it raises more questions than it answers, and strongly suggests their refusal to investigate the alleged No 10 parties was unlawful.

The Met says they concluded that further investigatory work would be required before they could decide whether to bring charges, but rather than attempting to do this, they just closed the case.

Their attempts to justify that decision really don’t make sense. First, they say they relied on the Government’s assurances that no rules had been broken. Then, they say there would have been no point in interviewing No 10 staff about the parties because they would have refused to answer questions that exposed them to a risk of prosecution.

In what other crime would police decline to investigate because the suspect assured them no rules had been broken? And those justifications can’t both be true; if no rules were broken, there’s no risk of self-incrimination.

It is not good enough for the Met to delegate their investigative duties to the press and civil servants. We don’t believe they would make such concessions for anyone else accused of breaking the law.

The Met seem to be operating a two-tier system, with one rule for those in power and one rule for everyone else. We think that sets a dangerous precedent, with serious implications for public trust.

We’re issuing formal legal proceedings to force the Met to revisit their decision. If we win, it could have a knock-on effect for all the parties held at Downing Street. Those in power broke the rules - repeatedly. They should face the same consequences as everyone else.

If you are able, please donate to help make this case possible. Thank you.

Details: We’ve instructed Bindmans LLP and Danny Friedman QC and Adam Wagner are acting as counsel.

10% of the sums raised will go to Good Law Project so that we can continue to use the law for a better world. It is our policy to only raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. If for some reason we don’t spend all the money raised on this case, for instance if the Met Police backs down or we win, the donations will go towards supporting other litigation we bring.

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Update 8

Good Law Project

July 25, 2022

New revelations about gaps in the Met Partygate investigation

The Met Police have, at last, admitted they didn't send questionnaires to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, before deciding not to fine him for attending a gathering in No.10 on 13 November 2020 or a gathering in the Cabinet Office on 17 December 2020.

At the November gathering, according to Sue Gray, the Prime Minister gave a leaving speech for Lee Cain, his Director of Communications. Wine was provided and those attending, including the Prime Minister, drank alcohol. There are a number of photographs of the event. The Prime Minister also attended the December 2020 gathering, where wine was also provided, and made a speech. The Met have issued other attendees at both events with fines.

In their formal pleaded reply to our legal challenge, the Met admit they did not send the PM questionnaires, and continue to fail to provide any explanation of how they cleared the Prime Minister.

Rishi Sunak’s Partygate fine suggests that passing through a gathering en route to a meeting doesn’t prevent you from being fined, so it’s far from clear how turning up to a gathering deliberately, raising a toast and encouraging the revels to continue can be compliant with the law.

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 conceded is their public duty to maintain public confidence in policing.

In the circumstances, Good Law Project and Lord Paddick will continue with the judicial review.

The public has a right to know what really went on inside the Partygate investigation. The Met’s actions have raised grave concerns about the deferential way in which they are policing those in power.

It was only after we threatened to sue the Met in January 2022 that they agreed to investigate at all and the Prime Minister was eventually fined for attending a lockdown gathering in June 2020.

Our challenge is grounded in a single, simple idea: for the law to have any meaning, it must apply equally to us all. The Met must explain their seeming lack of action in this matter. 

We won’t stop until the full story is uncovered.

You can read our grounds of claim here and the Met’s summary ground of defence here.

Update 7

Good Law Project

June 28, 2022

New legal action to the truth about the PM’s Partygate

We are, today, issuing formal proceedings against the Met Police for their apparent continued failure to properly investigate Boris Johnson’s attendance at three lockdown gatherings, in November and December 2020 and January 2021, and their refusal to answer our legitimate questions about how they reached this decision. 

The public have a right to know what really went on inside the Partygate investigation. The Met’s actions have raised grave concerns about the deferential way in which they are policing those in power. It stands in stark contrast to how ordinary people were policed during lockdown. 

We’ve given the Met multiple opportunities to explain why he was reportedly not sent questionnaires regarding these three other gatherings, nor issued with fixed penalty notices for attending them, when a number of civil servants and officials who did received both. 

On 15 June, we wrote to the Met, giving them a week to finally live up to their duty to be honest and upfront with the public. 

Rather than work with us in a spirit of transparency, or address the substantive issues raised in our case, their response focuses on our right to bring this action at all (known as ‘standing’). Yet even here, they haven’t properly explained themselves. We asked them who, if not us, would have standing and they refused to answer. 

We strongly believe that Good Law Project and our co-claimant, former senior Met Officer Lord Paddick, have standing to represent the public interest in this matter. If we aren't allowed to bring this claim, we don't believe anyone else will be in a position to do so. 

So now we’re forced to sue the Met for a second time. 

Lord Paddick: “Members of the public will have seen Boris Johnson raising a glass at a party that he was apparently not even questioned about, and thought ‘If that had been me, I would have been fined.’ We are determined that the Prime Minister should be held to the same standard as the rest of us."

It was only after we threatened to sue the Met in January 2022 that they agreed to investigate at all and the Prime Minister was eventually fined for attending a lockdown gathering in June 2020.

From its failure to hold the Prime Minister and those around him to account for their lockdown breaches, to shocking reports of institutional misogyny, discrimination and sexual harassment, the public’s faith in the Met has been shaken to the core this year. This is their moment to finally begin repairing the damage their inaction has done. 

Our challenge is grounded in a single, simple idea: for the law to have any meaning, it must apply equally to us all. The Met must explain their seeming lack of action in this matter. We won’t stop until the full story is uncovered. 

 The Met have until 22 July to respond. We will keep you updated.

Update 6

Good Law Project

March 7, 2022

Met Police Partygate: For now, our work here is done

When the Met first claimed there wasn’t sufficient evidence to investigate the parties at Downing Street it seemed like they had forgotten that their role is to gather that evidence. We sought to encourage them to think again by commissioning and publishing legal advice on their duties. 

When that didn’t work, and as public confidence in the Met and the rule of law began to ebb away, we decided to act and launched judicial review proceedings. The notion that there is one rule for those in power and another for the rest of us cannot stand. 

We brought the claim against the Met with two main aims. The first was to force them to reconsider their decision not to investigate the alleged Number 10 parties. The second was to force them to be more transparent about their decision-making process, in particular, by having them explain their policy on investigating retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations, and how it was applied to Number 10. 

We issued proceedings on the basis of advice we described as 'bullish' in mid-January. A week later, the Met did a U-turn and promised to investigate the alleged parties. And in February, we published details of their reasoning and retrospective investigations policy, and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick resigned.

The Courts do not welcome litigation that has become academic, and there is nothing more we can hope to achieve, so we are withdrawing our claim. Each side will pay its own legal costs.

We will, however, continue to monitor the Met’s treatment of those in power carefully and do not rule out further judicial review proceedings. 

Good Law Project is also financially supporting Kristina O’Connor’s challenge to the Met’s continuing tolerant attitude towards misogyny amongst certain of its officers.

Update 5

Good Law Project

Feb. 14, 2022

Revealed: why the Met chose not to investigate Partygate

We can now share with you our Grounds for seeking a judicial review of the Met’s initial refusal to investigate the Downing Street lockdown parties, and the their response. The Met had previously insisted that some of the contents of these documents be kept confidential, but we are now publishing them.

We can reveal that the Met had an unpublished policy of not “normally” investigating retrospective lockdown breaches. However, where “not investigating… would significantly undermine the legitimacy of the law” that would point towards investigating.

The Met’s decision not to investigate the lockdown parties is difficult to understand. It is hard to avoid concluding that the Met decided it didn’t want to investigate, and then scrambled to reverse engineer a justification for this.

Their justification is itself remarkable. It includes reference to the fact that:

  • “Downing Street… have already stated that Covid rules were followed”
  • “anyone who was at the gathering would be entitled to refuse to answer questions because of the privilege against self-incrimination”
  • because the Cabinet Office was looking into possible breaches there was no need for the Met to investigate as well.

These are extraordinary points. They create a different set of laws for those in high office.

The Met would not accept your assurance that you hadn’t committed a crime. It would not refuse to ask you questions because of the privilege against self-incrimination. And it would certainly not decline to investigate you because you had appointed a subordinate to look into the matter instead. Yet these were all allowances gifted to the Government. 

Moreover, as the policy itself highlights, some reported breaches of the law potentially undermine the legitimacy of the law itself. It is difficult to imagine a clearer example of this than government officials, potentially including the Prime Minister, breaching the rules.

All of this is profoundly troubling. It points to a Met that does not want to investigate potential criminality in Government, or to a police force that is excessively deferential to those in power. It is a policy which dramatically undermines the rule of law.

We're now considering whether or not to continue with the judicial review. We wanted the Met to reconsider its decision not to investigate and, after we issued judicial review proceedings, the Met did just that. We believe it is in the public interest to have real transparency over the Met’s decision making, and the publication of those pleadings with this blog serves that end. We'll be making a final decision shortly and will, of course, let you know when we do.

Update 4

Good Law Project

Jan. 25, 2022

Met Police finally confirms they will investigate No 10 parties

Cressida Dick has finally confirmed that the Met Police will investigate the parties held in No 10 Downing Street and Whitehall, after we initiated formal legal proceedings against them. 

We first wrote to the Met six weeks ago warning that their decision not to investigate reports of parties in Downing Street appeared to be unlawful and we would sue them unless they reversed (or properly explained) it.

The Met’s determination to outsource this vital job to the civil service, via Sue Gray, was unbelievable then - and remains so now. It is hard to imagine the Met Police acting “in concert with” any other workplace that is suspected of wrongdoing, because they “have access to all sorts of things” and “know the systems” (to quote Dick’s announcement today). 

We remain deeply concerned by the perception that it’s one rule for the Government and one rule for everyone else. 

The Met must now ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done - and the Prime Minister and his colleagues are treated as anyone else would be.

We are discussing today’s developments with our legal team and will update you on the next steps in our legal action soon.

Update 3

Good Law Project

Jan. 19, 2022

Justice must be seen to be done

When we received the Met’s formal pre-action response to our judicial review claim, over its failure to apply the same criminal law to the Prime Minister as it applies to others, they told us not to publish it.

We have never before been asked to keep a pre-action response hidden from you, our supporters and funders. 

Yesterday, we filed our claim in court. The Met now have until 10 February to provide their formal response. 

We also wrote to the Met telling them that when we get that response, we will publish the grounds for our claim. We will also publish their response. If they want to, we invite them to make an application to the Court to continue to maintain this secrecy.

If they make such an application, we will let you know. Our position on that application to the Court will be that justice must be seen to be done.

We will keep you updated as the case progresses. Thank you for your support. 

Update 2

Good Law Project

Jan. 14, 2022

Response now in from the Met Police

We wrote to the Met yesterday after media reports that they had decided not to investigate the notorious 20 May 2020 No 10 garden party, which was attended by the Prime Minister. We have now received a response. Contrary to those reports the Met have confirmed that they haven’t made a decision about whether to investigate the 20 May 2020 party yet.

The Met say that all available material relating to the 20 May party, including the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on Wednesday, has been passed to a specialist team for assessment. And no decision has yet been reached.

We will carry on holding the Met’s feet to the fire until they live up to their responsibilities and conduct a full investigation. There cannot, must not, be two systems of criminal justice. In a way, what the Met has permitted - parallel criminal law regimes, a normal one for normal people, and a special one for special people - is as profound an attack on the rule of law as Johnson's suspension of Parliament was on democracy.

We are deeply concerned about how willing the Met seems to be to tolerate this destruction of public confidence in the law, to defer to the powerful.

You can read our letter to the Met Police here. And the Met's response today here

Update 1

Good Law Project

Jan. 13, 2022

The Met can’t keep turning a blind eye

Reports differ about the stance of the Metropolitan Police towards the notorious ‘Bring Your Own Booze Party’ held on the 20 May. There are reports the Met has already decided not to investigate whether a criminal act was committed by attendees.

We have today written to the Met to inform them that, unless they agree to open an investigation, we will judicial review that failure, alongside the failure to investigate the 18 December party.

It is intolerable, and we should not tolerate, the operation of separate criminal justice systems, a soft one for those with power and influence and a harsher one for those without.

The statue of justice shows her blind to social status – not winking at those in power.

You can read our letter to the Met Police here.

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