The Downing Street parties that broke the law during lockdown

12 April 2022, 16:44 | Updated: 12 April 2022, 16:53

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were today issued police fines for Covid lockdown breaches in the Partygate scandal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were today issued police fines for Covid lockdown breaches in the Partygate scandal. Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were today issued police fines for Covid lockdown breaches in the Partygate scandal - the third set of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) handed out by the Metropolitan Police.

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The penalty notices sent to the prime minister and Mr Sunak are part of fines sent to government staff who attended parties in Whitehall during 2020 and 2021 when Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Downing Street confirmed today Mr Johnson's fine was for breaking lockdown rules for his birthday party on 19 June 2020.

Mrs Johnson, who organised the event, and Mr Sunak both attended the party. It is thought their FPNs also relate to the PM's birthday, though this was not confirmed.

At least 30 more fixed penalty notices will be issued by the ACRO Criminal Records Office, the Metropolitan Police said in its latest update on Operation Hillman today, which is looking into breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

This is up from the 20 referrals for fixed-penalty notices (FPN) the force said had been made at the end of March with more expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

LBC takes a look at the lockdown-busting parties under investigation by the Metropolitan Police:

16 April 2021: Downing Street hold leaving do for James Slack, the prime minister's former director of communications, and one of Mr Johnson's personal photographers, the night before the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral.

The allegations surrounding the party on April 15, running into the early hours of April 16, include reports that a member of staff went to the local Co-op and filled a suitcase with alcohol.

Mr Slack has said the event should not have taken place and apologised "unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused."

Downing Street later apologised to Buckingham Palace and the Queen who was pictured alone at Prince Philip's funeral the following day. It is understood Mr Johnson was at Chequers and did not attend the party.

Fixed penalty notices were issued over the drinks in April 2022.

Downing Street confirmed today Mr Johnson's fine was for breaking lockdown rules for his birthday party on 19 June 2020.  Mrs Johnson, who organised the event, and Mr Sunak both attended the party.
Downing Street confirmed today Mr Johnson's fine was for breaking lockdown rules for his birthday party on 19 June 2020. Mrs Johnson, who organised the event, and Mr Sunak both attended the party. Picture: Alamy

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14 January 2021: A leaving do for two No10 private secretaries was held at Downing Street. At the time, England was under a complete lockdown imposed by Mr Johnson only two weeks earlier.

18 December 2020: A Christmas party was allegedly held for Downing Street staff including cheese, wine and a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Officials and advisers allegedly made speeches at the event which was attended by between 40 and 50 staffers.

No10 spokesperson Allegra Stratton made a tearful resignation speech after footage emerged of her apparently joking about the party in a mock press conference.

The event, held while the rest of London was under tier three restrictions which banned indoor mixing, kicked off the Partygate scandal when it emerged late last year.

Mr Johnson later said he had been assured no party had taken place and did not believe any event had broken Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time.

17 December 2020: Leaving drinks were held for Kate Josephs, the former director-general of the Government's Covid Taskforce, with dozens of staff reportedly in attendance.

Those who attended the party were issued with FPNs earlier this month.

Ms Josephs apologised for the event in January. She said: "I have been cooperating fully with the Cabinet Office investigations and I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.

"However as Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council I am responsible for leading the organisation and working with partners across the city and the reign to support our covid response and recovery.

"On the evening of 17 December, I gathered with colleagues that were at work that day, with drinks, in our office in the Cabinet Office, to mark my leaving the Civil Service.

"I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger people will feel as a result."Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly."

Ms Josephs denied attending any gatherings at 10 Downing Street, and thanked her colleagues for their "ongoing support." The event took place at a time when indoor socialising was not permitted.

Read more: PM, Carrie and Chancellor hit with fines for lockdown-busting party breaches

17 December 2020: A gathering attended by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and listed in digital calendars as "Christmas Party!" was allegedly held inside room 103 of the Cabinet Office.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed a Christmas quiz had taken place and said: "The Cabinet Secretary played no part in the event, but walked through the team's office on the way to his own office."

At the time, England was under tiered restrictions with London in tier three under which people were not allowed to meet indoors and in most cases outdoors with people outside of their bubble.

13 November 2020: Mr Johnson and his then fiancee Carrie allegedly hosted a flat party with loud music. It was not immediately clear who attended the event but it was held the same night former aide Dominic Cummings left Downing Street.

At the time, the UK was in its second national lockdown and indoor mixing among separate households was banned.

13 November 2020: Mr Johnson alleged attended a leaving do for the departing director of communications Lee Cain and gave a speech.

19 June 2020: Mr Johnson attended a birthday party lasting up to 30 minutes with 30 people in the Cabinet Room in No10 to celebrate turning 56.

He was presented with a cake and officials sung a rendition of Happy Birthday before eating picnic food from M&S.

The gathering was reportedly organised by his wife Carrie and attended briefly by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, though he was "not invited", ITV reported.

A Downing Street spokesperson later admitted a "small number of staff" attended the event in the Cabinet room, but refused to comment further.

Downing Street confirmed today the FPN issued to Mr Johnson was in relation to this event. It is thought fines for Mr Sunak and Mrs Johnson, who organised the event, are in relation to the same party.

Downing Street today confirmed the prime minister's fixed penalty notice was related to his 19 June 2020 birthday party organised by his wife Carrie (pictured together)
Downing Street today confirmed the prime minister's fixed penalty notice was related to his 19 June 2020 birthday party organised by his wife Carrie (pictured together). Picture: Alamy

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18 June 2020: Downing Street staff hold a leaving do for Hannah Young - a No10 private secretary. It was reported that there were about 20 people present and that alcohol was consumed.

The Metropolitan Police issued 20 fines, each £50, to junior civil servants thought to be in connection with the event via email earlier this month.

Scotland Yard had said on 29 March that investigators were referring 20 notices to the ACRO Criminal Records Office, which is responsible for issuing the penalties.

At the time of the 18 June party, the UK was days into an ease of restrictions that allowed up to six people to gather outdoors.

The government's former ethics minister Helen MacNamara was issued with a £50 fine over the event earlier this month. She said she had paid the FPN and apologised "for the error of judgement".

20 May 2020: Mr Johnson and fellow Downing Street staff are pictured in the gardens of No10 after an email was sent by Martin Reynolds, the Principal Private Secretary to the PM, to more than 100 employees.

He invited them to "bring your own booze" to the garden to "make the most of the lovely weather".

Under Covid-19 restrictions at the time, only two people were allowed to meet outside but had to remain socially distanced while socialising indoors was banned.

Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and then-aide Dominic Cummings were pictured at the event alongside around 40 members of Downing Street staff.

The Prime Minister later said he "believed implicitly that this was a work event" and that it was therefore "technically" within the rules.

He told MPs he attended the event to "thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working" and admitted "with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside."