Politicians and officials who attended alleged lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street will be able to pay fines instead of being interviewed by the police.
Partygoers can expect to be issued fixed-penalty notices as recognition of a minor offence. The recipients will not be made public unless they challenge their fines in court.
Scotland Yard has been criticised by legal experts and Tory MPs for urging Sue Gray to limit the publication of her investigation into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in No 10.
The Metropolitan Police asked the senior civil servant to make only “minimal reference” to events now subject to a criminal investigation, throwing her report into disarray and potentially buying more time for Boris Johnson as he faces a threat to his leadership.
‘Nothing to worry about’
The force argued the constraints on the Cabinet Office report are necessary to “avoid any prejudice to our investigation”, meaning it faces being watered down or a lengthy delay.
No 10 aides have reportedly been told not to worry about the police probe into Partygate because a fine is the worst punishment they will receive.
Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, is believed to have suggested that even if staff are found to have breached lockdown laws, it will not end their careers.
At a meeting after the Metropolitan Police announced its investigation, the Downing Street chief of staff told more than 30 colleagues: “At worst it will be like getting a fixed penalty fine for speeding, nothing to worry about.”
Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions (DPP), said on Friday that Scotland Yard’s move to censor the report seems “disproportionate” in the face of “very powerful” public interest in the report’s swift publication, unless there is “more serious conduct” being investigated.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, one of the Conservatives to call for Johnson’s resignation, described it as a “farce” which could buy more time for the “lame duck” Prime Minister.
Opposition politicians warned of a “stitch-up” amid growing calls for the official report into potential Covid breaches in Downing Street and wider Government to be published in full, with it having the potential to trigger a vote of no confidence in Johnson.
In a statement on Friday morning, Scotland Yard said: “For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.
“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”
The statement indicates Gray will either have to make significant changes to her report before publication or delay it until after the police inquiry concludes.
Related: Tory who said Boris was ‘ambushed with cake’ now claims there was no cake