Today
Tue 25 January 2022

The Met has outsourced the decision on whether to investigate a crime into the hands of the institution accused of committing it, says Adam Bienkov

The Metropolitan Police on Thursday released a statement saying that it will not open an investigation into illegal parties in Downing Street as the force does not yet have “significant evidence” that criminality took place.

This remarkable announcement came despite the Prime Minister personally admitting to attending one such illegal party and despite the release of an email from one of Boris Johnson’s own aides inviting more than 100 people to one.

Since then, even more evidence has emerged of illegal parties inside No. 10.

This morning, the Telegraph reported that one such event took place last year in Downing Street’s basement with music, dancing and staff bringing a “suitcase of wine” into the building.

Under the rules at the time, mixing socially with people outside of your own household indoors was banned. A member of the public who held a party on the same day was apprehended by the Metropolitan Police and ultimately fined £12,000. On the same day the Queen was pictured sat by herself at the funeral of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, due to the social distancing rules the Government had imposed.

One attendee of this party, Johnson’s former spokesman and current deputy editor of the Sun newspaper, James Slack, has since released a statement confirming that the reported event took place.

Short of footage emerging of the Prime Minister personally leading a conga down Whitehall, it is difficult to work out what other evidence the Met Police needs.

Instead, all we have is its statement insisting that it will wait for the findings of the Government’s own internal investigation into the parties by Sue Gray, after which officers “may review and consider” any evidence it finds.

In other words, the Met Police has outsourced the decision on whether to investigate a crime to the institution accused of committing it. It is difficult to think of any equivalent situation where a police force would act in this way.

The Met Police’s statement is all the more concerning given the fact that the force is clearly also implicated in this scandal.

Downing Street is protected 24 hours a day by police officers both inside and outside the building. As someone who has previously attended events and press conferences there prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, I consider it inconceivable that officers were not aware that such parties were taking place.

In its statement, the Met Police said it has a policy of not retrospectively investigating breaches of COVID-19 regulations. Taken by itself, this may seem reasonable. However, the fact that multiple illegal events were allowed to take place, seemingly without any interference from officers at the time, suggests that the force was at best negligent of its duty to uphold the law and at worst complicit in it being broken.

When news first broke that parties had taken place in Downing Street during lockdown, opposition parties accused the Prime Minister and his staff of believing that they were above the law.

The Met Police’s continued refusal to investigate suggests that this belief is fully justified.

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