Wednesday 13 April 2022

Johnson and Sunak got fixed penalty notices over lockdown gatherings

One of the BBC News headlines is "Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak reject calls to resign over lockdown fines. - Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak reject calls to resign over lockdown fines - BBC News

There may be more to come given that further gatherings held at Downing Street continue to be the subject of police investigation to ascertain whether individuals may have been in breach of legislation "made" by Ministers, and eventually approved by Parliament, which placed restrictions on "gatherings".

The whole point of the regulations was, of course, to try to limit the spread of coronavirus which, at the time, was often causing severe illness and, in many cases, death. Boris Johnson spent time in hospital due to the virus. (Vaccines began to be approved in late 2020). 

The draconian nature of the regulations seems to be now fading from the public memory. Many businesses had to close. Many activities were curtailed. Even funerals were subjected to limits on the number of persons permitted to attend. Meanwhile, senior politicians and others attended what were clearly social and not work gatherings in Downing Street.

The Metropolitan Police, like most

Police Forces in England and Wales, were undoubtedly zealous when it came to enforcement of the regulations against members of the public but the Downing Street gatherings were held under the noses of officers who, for security reasons, maintain a continuous police presence in that part of London. Nothing appears to have been done until late in 2021 when the gatherings came to public notice and the police, clearly under some pressure, finally decided to investigate.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that all guidance was followed completely (1 December 2021) and that there was no party and no rules were broken (8 December 2021). To say the least, all that is somewhat cavalier with the complete truth. Ministers plainly thought that they could "tough it out" and calculated, as is all too commonly the case, that they might "get away with it." 

In the light of subsequent events - especially the tragic military conflict in Ukraine - it certainly appears that they may have "got away with it." Politically, it remains to be seen whether that is the ultimate outcome but it is plain that this government has little or no regard for acceptable standards in public office.

I will end this post on a "nit-picky" point. The regulations imposed a FIXED PENALTY NOTICE (FPN) system. As many know, especially motorists, prompt payment of a FPN does NOT amount to a conviction. Therefore, as a matter of law, neither Johnson nor Sunak stand convicted of a criminal offence. Further, they have paid a FIXED PENALTY and NOT a fine. Fines are imposed by courts and this matter has not gone before a court. Nit-picky for sure but accuracy in law is something always worth striving for.

Unequivocally, disgraceful conduct by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer but not, strictly-speaking, a criminal conviction.

13 April 2022


Justice minister resigns over No 10 Partygate revelations | Boris Johnson | The Guardian

Covid cases at an all-time high, free testing scrapped... so what will happen now? | Coronavirus | The Guardian


22 April 2022 - Boris Johnson will face Commons inquiry over whether he lied to parliament | Boris Johnson | The Guardian

Referral of Prime Minister to Committee of Privileges - Hansard - UK Parliament

Committee of Privileges - Membership - Committees - UK Parliament

20 May 2022UPDATED: Met’s investigation into alleged breaches of Covid regulations, Op Hillman, concludes | Metropolitan Police

1 comment:

  1. Re: FPNs and criminal offences, what's the legal position with regard to drawing inferences from accepting an FPN and paying the penalty? The common-sense inference is certainly that it's an admission of guilt - there is the option of contesting it in court, after all - but I don't know to what extent lawyers are permitted to draw it.