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UK police to issue 20 fines over Downing Street lockdown parties

By Rob Picheta, Niamh Kennedy, Ed Upright, CNN

British police will issue 20 fines as part of their investigation into illegal parties held in the heart of Boris Johnson‘s government, which took place while the rest of the country was living under strict pandemic lockdowns and sparked outrage in the UK.

London’s Metropolitan Police said Tuesday that investigations were continuing and more so-called fixed-penalty notices could be issued at a later date.

The announcement marks the first official confirmation that events in Downing Street and Whitehall broke laws created by Johnson’s government — and it comes four months after the Prime Minister denied parties were held and insisted all guidance was followed.

The so-called “Partygate” scandal, which emerged in late 2021, sparked the most serious threat to Johnson’s premiership to date. His early denials of any wrongdoing — coupled with the subsequent revelation that he had himself attended several parties that officers were investigating — sparked calls for him to resign from across the political spectrum.

“We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments,” the police said in their Tuesday statement. They added that, “due to the significant amount of investigative material that remains to be assessed,” more fines could be recommended “if the evidential threshold is made.”

Tuesday’s statement does not name any of the people who the fines will be issued to, and does not identify which of the events being investigated were found to have included rule-breaking. CNN has reached out to Downing Street.

While the identity of those fined has not been made public, Downing Street has previously said it would reveal if Johnson himself is handed a fine.

Officers are investigating at least 12 events, a number of which Johnson was present at. The Metropolitan Police has previously revealed it had been handed more than 300 photographs and 500 pages of information to review.

The investigation has delayed the full publication of a separate, internal inquiry by civil servant Sue Gray. In a brief update of her report in January, Gray condemned multiple parties, a culture of excessive drinking and a “failure of leadership” in Johnson’s government while the rest of the country was living under lockdown rules.

Responding to those findings in Parliament at the time, Johnson said: “I’m sorry for the things we simply didn’t get right.” He also attempted to draw a line under the scandal, saying he will “fix it,” but he declined to answer several questions from lawmakers, citing the ongoing police probe.

Johnson survived that initial round of criticism and his standing in opinion polls has since marginally improved as focus has turned to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But “Partygate” remains a thorny issue for the government as it heads towards local nationwide elections in May.

The Labour Party’s shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, tweeted on Tuesday after the police recommended the fines: “According to Boris Johnson these were the parties that never happened. He’s a proven liar and lied repeatedly to the House of Commons and the country.”

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