Met Police won't probe May 2020 Downing Street party unless Sue Gray finds evidence of criminality

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Police will not carry out a formal investigation into the Covid-rule-breaking party held in the garden of 10 Downing Street in May 2020, unless an internal probe uncovers evidence of criminality.

The Metropolitan Police said it will only consider whether to launch its own investigation if Sue Gray, the civil servant running Downing Street's internal probe, "identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence".

The force said it has "ongoing contact" with the Cabinet Office in relation to the Number 10 garden party, which the prime minister admitted to attending on May 20, 2020, after ITV News published a leaked email inviting more 100 people to attend.

The email, sent by the PM's principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, urged staff to "make the most of the lovely weather" by attending "socially distanced drinks" in the No 10 garden.

Boris Johnson claimed he did not know he was at a party, instead believing he was at a "work event" which he said would "technically" comply with the rules.

But the Good Law Project, a campaigning not-for-profit group of lawyers, said the email leaked to ITV News provides enough evidence for police to investigate and alleges that a decision not to could be "unlawful".

In a letter handed to ITV News and the Mirror, the group said it had told the Metropolitan Police Service it will "likely" take legal action to challenge any decision not to investigate.

It said there are there are strong grounds for “retrospectively” investigating the lockdown breach because the email provides "clear evidence" of potential wrongdoing.

On Monday, following ITV News' report, the Metropolitan Police said it was "in contact with the Cabinet Office" over the party on May 20, 2020.

The email invitation sent by Martin Reynolds, seen by ITV News. Credit: ITV News

In response, Number 10 officials said Sue Gray's inquiry would be halted if the Metropolitan Police decided to conduct an investigation.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was "absolutely right" for the Met to wait for Sue Gray's investigation to report back before considering launching their own probe.

She told broadcasters: "There's an ongoing investigation, that investigation needs to conclude, and then obviously other actions could be taken post that investigation, but we can't pre-empt things right now. We really can't."

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But the Lib Dems accused the Met Police of a “shady establishment stitch-up.” The party said: “The police don’t need the Government’s permission to investigate a crime, and they mustn’t turn a blind eye to criminality just because it is committed by Boris Johnson.”

In a statement, the Met said: "The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting relating to alleged breaches of the Health Protection Regulations at Downing Street and Department for Education on various dates and has received correspondence in relation to this reporting.

"Throughout the pandemic the Met has followed the national 4 Es approach of enforcing the Coronavirus Regulations. Where live ongoing breaches of the restrictions were identified, officers engaged with those present, explained the current restrictions, encouraged people to adhere to them, and only as a last resort moved to enforcement. "In line with the Met’s policy, officers do not normally investigate breaches of Coronavirus Regulations when they are reported long after they are said to have taken place. However, if significant evidence suggesting a breach of the regulations becomes available, officers may review and consider it. "The Cabinet Office is conducting an inquiry into gatherings at Number 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education. The Met has ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office in relation to this inquiry. If the inquiry identifies evidence of behaviour that is potentially a criminal offence it will be passed to the Met for further consideration."