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The Metropolitan police has suggested it may look again at investigating the parties that allegedly took place in Downing Street last Christmas – but only if the Cabinet Office inquiry turns up new evidence and provides it to them.
In a letter to Labour MP Neil Coyle, a senior officer confirmed again that police are not willing to start a criminal inquiry based on existing material, after multiple reports events took place while the rest of the country was under Covid restrictions.
But they said the Met has had discussions with the Cabinet Office in relation to their investigation into the matter, and that if government provides them with further evidence of their own misconduct, they may revise their position.
“If any evidence is found as a result of that investigation, it will be passed to the Met for further consideration,” the letter reads.
Coyle has dismissed the Met’s response as “embarrassing”.
He told PoliticsHome: “It is deeply worrying that the premier crime fighting force in the country is struggling to get out of bed to investigate crime in Downing Street.
“The Met is demanding it is spoon-fed evidence rather than interview party attendees.”
Police have previously been urged to act in relation to the gatherings, despite Boris Johnson and senior ministers saying that no rules were broken.
Since it was first alleged by The Mirror that staff in Downing Street held a Christmas party with alcohol, games and a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange, further media reports have claimed a number of other similar events took place in different departments.
Footage was obtained by ITV of Johnson’s then-spokesperson Allegra Stratton joking about defending the incident in a mock press conference, leading to her resignation.
New: Met is now prepared to investigate Number 10 parties but only if new Cabinet Office investigation passes evidence over once it has concluded its own inquiry.
– Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) December 22, 2021
But the Met said although the matter “has been considered by detectives in detail” it does not “provide evidence of a breach of the Health Protection Regulations” brought in to help stop the spread of Covid.
The letter to Coyle reads: “Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not normally to investigate breaches of the regulations the they are reported long after they are said to have taken place, the Met will not commence an investigations this time.”
But the MP said in response: “It is an embarrassing position for senior officers to adopt and has astounded an already angry public who saw officers overreact at a peaceful vigil, pounce on other partygoers last year but somehow acquire a blind spot when it comes to the Prime Minister’s top aides flouting the law.”
It comes as the Met has referred itself to the police watchdog after a complaint from a Green Party peer over its handling of the alleged Downing Street parties.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb wrote to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to raise concerns over the lack of investigation, saying there is a “case to answer” for the force “aiding and abetting a criminal offence, or deliberately failing to enforce the law in favour of government politicians and their staff”.
Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Tony O’Sullivan, directorate of professional standards, replied to her a letter: “I have referred your complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct given that you effectively allege misconduct in public office by MPS police officers.
“The IOPC will now make a determination as to whether the complaint needs to be investigated and if so, how.”
The IOPC confirmed a referral letter from the Met had been received, adding: “We are assessing it to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.”
Baroness Jones also complained Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has “refused to investigate allegations of an unlawful gathering on December 18 2020”.
O’Sullivan said that matter has been referred to MOPAC, the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, which sets the direction and budget for the Met.
A spokesperson for MOPAC said: “A complaint has been received and is under consideration.”
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