Leicester

Leicester mayor apologises for breaking lockdown rules

Sir Peter Soulsby
Image caption Sir Peter Soulsby admitted he had made an "error of judgement"

The mayor of Leicester has apologised for "an error of judgement" after it was revealed he broke lockdown rules twice by visiting his partner.

Sir Peter Soulsby admitted visiting Lesley Summerland and staying at her house overnight before government guidelines allowed it.

The Sun on Sunday published pictures of the former Leicester South MP fitting a window to Ms Summerland's home.

Sir Peter said "far more influential people" had flouted the lockdown rules.

At the beginning of lockdown, England's deputy chief medical officer warned against partners living in separate households meeting up.

For that reason, Dr Jenny Harries said couples might wish to consider testing "their strength of feeling" and moving in together during lockdown.

However, Sir Peter, a 71-year-old Labour politician, said that would not have been practical as he was continuing to work and his partner of five years needed to be "available to support her family".

The widower said the couple had been separated for five weeks but then "Lesley became ill" with a recurring condition that was not related to coronavirus.

He said he spent three nights at her home at the end of April - the peak of the pandemic so far in the UK.

He spent a further four nights to "secure the property" by fixing a window at the front of her house in May.

Speaking to BBC Radio Leicester, he said he apologised for the error of judgement and admitted "it was setting a very bad example".

However, he added: "I don't think anybody would claim that there was anything in my behaviour that ran any risk whatsoever of spreading the virus.

"It can be certainly interpreted as against the spirit of the lockdown, if not against the regulations."

He said he had been "ready to apologise" unlike "some of the high-profile people who are far more influential in setting policy about this than I am".

In March, Sir Peter reiterated government advice by telling residents to stay at home and only go to work if their job was considered essential.

Leicestershire Police said officers spoke to Sir Peter at a police station yesterday and "advice was given in relation to the government guidelines".

The force said since the allegations related to potential historical breaches of lockdown restrictions, no further police action would be taken.

It said the decision was "in keeping" with how any report of a historical breach would be dealt with.

Leicester Conservatives described Sir Peter's breach of the regulations as "clear hypocrisy" and called on councillors and MPs to demand his resignation.

City councillor Lindsay Broadwell, Labour, also tweeted: "This merits a resignation in my book."

Sir Peter said he hoped his fellow councillors did not "rush to judgement".

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