- The UK government passes information on Johnson to the police
- Police are evaluating information regarding violations of the COVID rules
- Johnson’s office is defiant, and says the accusations are unfounded
LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson has been referred to the police over possible further breaches of lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, a charge the former prime minister’s office described as “another politically motivated facelift”.
The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for overseeing the government’s work, said it made a referral to the police based on information discovered during reporting for a public inquiry into the pandemic.
The Times, which first broke the story on Tuesday, said the ministerial diaries showed visits during the pandemic by friends to Checkers, a country mansion used as a residence by prime ministers.
The Cabinet Office confirmed that it passed the information to the police “in line with the obligations under the Civil Service Law”.
London’s Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, the force covering the area around Checkers, said they were assessing that information, which related to potential breaches of the Health Protection Regulations between June 2020 and May 2021.
Johnson, whose premiership was cut short in part by anger within his own party and across Britain over lockdown parties that breached COVID rules at his Downing Street office and residence, was defiant, saying the assertion was unfounded.
“The Cabinet Office’s assertion that there have been further breaches of the COVID rules is wholly untrue. The events in question were examined by lawyers and advised that they were lawful,” his office said in a statement.
“Many will conclude that this bears all the hallmarks of another politically motivated seamstress.”
Earlier, Johnson’s spokesman said some “abridged entries” in the former prime minister’s official notes had been queried by the Cabinet Office in preparation for the COVID investigation in Britain but had been dealt with by his solicitors.
It is another blow for Johnson, who is keen to carve an image as one of the most ardent supporters of Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and is still seen by some in the ruling Conservative Party as the winner of the vote who could return to Britain’s top job. .
He remains one of the most iconic figures in British politics and also one of the most divisive.
The Brexit vote that won a landslide election victory in 2019 forced Johnson out of office in 2022 after a series of scandals and missteps.
He was fined by police for attending an event to celebrate his birthday in Downing Street in June 2020, making him the first prime minister found to have broken the law in office.
But he also retains the support of some Conservatives who feel he remains their best hope of retaining power – a factor fueling divisions in the party ahead of an election expected next year.
Johnson is still under investigation by a parliamentary committee as to whether he deliberately or recklessly misled the House of Commons in a so-called “gate party”.
The former prime minister told the Privileges Committee that there was no evidence he had deliberately misled MPs.
His office indicated that the move by the Cabinet Office was “a last-ditch attempt … to prolong the Privileges Committee investigation as it was coming to an end and to undermine Mr Johnson” and that meetings at Checkers were either within the rules being held outdoors or covered by the dispensations.
Mr Johnson’s lawyers have written tonight to the police forces involved to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is so completely wrong in its assertions.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Chris Reese)
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