Partygate: Which Downing Street parties have resulted in fines?

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Boris Johnson and Rishi SunakImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have both been fined

The Metropolitan Police have issued a total of 126 fixed penalty notices have been issued over lockdown events in and around Number 10.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has asked them to explain how they decided who to fine at the gatherings.

This follows news that the Prime Minister was fined for attending a birthday party at Number 10, but not for attending a leaving do.

The police have told the mayor that they do not comment on individual cases.

What fines have been issued?

The Met says the fines were issued to 83 individuals, with 28 people receiving between two and five fines.

Of the 126 fines, 53 fines were issued to men and 73 to women.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a fine relating to a gathering for his birthday, in Downing Street on 19 June 2020. His wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were also fined over the party.

There have also been fines for events on other dates:

  • 20 May 2020 - a garden party attended by the PM, to which staff were invited to "bring your own booze"
  • 18 June 2020 - a civil servant's leaving party - the government's former head of ethics, Helen MacNamara, confirmed she had received a fine for this one
  • 13 November 2020 - there were two gatherings - one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat. We do not know which one the fines were issued for
  • 17 December 2020 - three events took place: two for the departure of officials and a Christmas quiz. We do not know which one the fines were issued for
  • 18 December 2020 - a Christmas party joked about in a leaked Downing Street press conference video
  • 14 January 2021 - a gathering was held in Downing Street for the departure of two No 10 private secretaries
  • 16 April 2021 - a leaving party for the former No 10 director of communications, James Slack

Which gatherings have not led to fines?

On dates when there was more than one gathering investigated, we do not know which event led to the fines.

Sue Gray's initial report referred to 16 gatherings in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office. Not all of them were investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

The report said police decided that four of the gatherings were not considered to have reached the threshold for criminal investigation:

While the 15 December Christmas quiz was on the list of gatherings that were not going to be investigated by police, that decision was reviewed following the publication of a photo of the event. However, no fines were later issued.

Timeline: Downing St gatherings

The government has faced intense pressure over gatherings held in and around Downing Street during Covid lockdowns. A police investigation into several of the events has now concluded, with more than 100 fines having been issued to attendees. Here is what we know about the gatherings and the restrictions in place at the time:

A photo from May 2020 showed the prime minister and his staff with bottles of wine and a cheeseboard in the Downing Street garden. When asked about it, Boris Johnson said "those people were at work talking about work".

Boris Johnson was pictured with his wife Carrie as well as Downing Street staff
Image caption Boris Johnson was pictured with his wife Carrie as well as Downing Street staff Image copyright by Guardian/Eyevine

The rules:

Legal restrictions at the time said you could not leave your house without a reasonable excuse and government guidance was that you could meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor setting while exercising.

This event was not investigated by the police.

About 100 people were invited by email to "socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening". Witnesses told the BBC the PM and his wife were among about 30 people who attended.

Boris Johnson apologised to MPs for attending the event, saying he spent 25 minutes thanking staff, before returning to his office.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

A gathering took place in the Cabinet Office to mark the departure of a No 10 private secretary.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

We know at least one fine has been issued after the government's former head of ethics admitted receiving one and apologised for attending the event.

On Boris Johnson’s birthday, up to 30 people gathered in the Cabinet Room at No 10 to present the prime minister with a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday, according to a report by ITV News.

No 10 said staff had "gathered briefly" to "wish the prime minister a happy birthday", adding that he had been there "for less than 10 minutes".

The rules:

Restrictions at the time banned most indoor gatherings involving more than two people.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

We know at least three attendees have received fines from the police, with the PM, his wife Carrie Symonds and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all confirming they have paid fixed penalty notices.

Two gatherings are understood to have taken place in Downing Street on this date: one to mark the departure of a special adviser and one in the Downing Street flat.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the gathering in the flat where Mr Johnson and his wife live was to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings, the PM's former senior adviser. A spokesman for Mrs Johnson denies the party took place.

Boris Johnson pictured at a party, according to ITV News
Image caption Boris Johnson pictured at a party, according to ITV News Image copyright by ITV News

The rules:

Eight days earlier Boris Johnson had announced a new lockdown in England. Indoor gatherings with other households were banned, unless they were for work purposes.

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but they have not confirmed whether it was one or both of the events.

A leaving event was held for No 10 aide, Cleo Watson, where people were drinking, and Mr Johnson made a speech, according to sources.

This event was not investigated by the police.

The Department for Education has confirmed it had an office gathering to thank staff for their work during the pandemic. It says drinks and snacks were brought by those who attended and no outside guests or support staff were invited.

The rules:

Eight days earlier, London had been placed in restrictions which banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.

This event was not investigated by the police.

The Conservative Party has admitted that an "unauthorised gathering" took place at its HQ in Westminster. It was held by the team of the party's London-mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey, who has since stepped down as chair of the London Assembly police and crime committee.

In December, police said they would be contacting two people who attended the party.

The gathering at the Conservative Party headquarters was described as ‘raucous’
Image caption The gathering at the Conservative Party headquarters was described as ‘raucous’ Image copyright by Daily Mirror

This event was not included in Sue Gray's report.

Multiple sources have told the BBC there was a Christmas quiz for No 10 staff last year. A photo - published by the Sunday Mirror - shows Boris Johnson taking part and sitting between two colleagues in No 10. Mr Johnson has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Johnson was pictured in the No 10 library under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher
Image caption Mr Johnson was pictured in the No 10 library under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher Image copyright by Sunday Mirror

The rules: At this time, the rules in London banned two or more people from different households from meeting indoors, unless "reasonably necessary" for work purposes.

This event was not investigated by the police.

The Department for Transport has apologised after confirming reports of a party in its offices, calling it "inappropriate" and an "error of judgment" by staff.

This event was not included in Sue Gray's report.

A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office for the outgoing head of the civil service Covid taskforce - the team responsible for drawing up coronavirus restrictions.

Kate Josephs, now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, apologised for the event, saying she was "truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result".

A second gathering was held in the Cabinet Office to hold an online Christmas quiz for the Cabinet Secretary’s private office.

A third gathering was held in No 10 Downing Street to mark the departure of a No 10 official

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but they have not confirmed whether it was one or all of the events.

Downing Street originally denied a report by the Daily Mirror that a party took place in Downing Street on this date.

However, a video obtained by ITV News showed the prime minister's then-press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about reports of the event, saying: "This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced."

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

A gathering was held in No 10 Downing Street to mark the departure of two private secretaries.

The police investigation determined that this event did breach the rules in place at the time.

Two parties were held by Downing Street staff at No 10, the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

One of the events was a leaving party for the PM's then director of communications James Slack, who has apologised for the event and acknowledged it "should not have happened at the time that it did".

Boris Johnson was not at either party.

The rules

The rules had been eased in England on 12 April, but working from home continued to be recommended and socialising indoors with people from other households was not allowed. Meeting others outdoors was limited to groups of six people or two households.

The police investigation determined that an event on this date did breach the rules in place at the time but they have not confirmed whether it was one or both of the events.

We know fines have been issued to some people who attended Mr Slack’s leaving party, but we do not know who they were issued to.

How did police decide who to fine?

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, asked the Metropolitan Police to explain why they fined the prime minister for attending a birthday party in Downing Street on 19 June 2020 but did not fine him for attending a leaving event for former communications director Lee Cain on 13 November, 2020.

A reply from Acting Commissioner Sir Stephen House says the police could not comment on individual cases, for fear of identifying individuals.

However, he said, every case had been "examined meticulously" and that the investigations had been carried out "carefully and impartially".

Sir Stephen said police investigators had to take into account a number of factors before imposing a fine, such as the amount of time a person had stayed at an event and whether it had been work-related.

What is the Sue Gray report?

The police investigation was launched after the initial findings of a separate inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Her full report was delayed until police investigations ended and published on 25 May. It gives details of 16 events between May 2020 and April 2021, 12 of which were investigated by the police.

Ms Gray says that "what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time".

She blames senior politicians and officials for "failures of leadership and judgment in No 10 and the Cabinet Office".

What has Boris Johnson said?

Since being fined, the prime minister has already said he "fell short" of his own rules and people "had the right to expect better" from him.

Opposition parties say he misled Parliament when he told MPs no rules were broken.

What is a fixed penalty notice?

The fixed penalty notices (FPNs) are for breaking Covid laws.

Every Metropolitan Police decision to issue FPNs in relation to "partygate" goes to Acro, the criminal records office for England and Wales.

Media caption,

Dame Cressida Dick announces the Met Police's investigation into No 10 lockdown parties

It receives and processes the payments required from each person found to have broken the law.

That means there is an official record on the system - but it is not a criminal record that must be disclosed.

If someone doesn't pay an FPN, then it becomes more serious. The notice will be referred to the courts. In the worst case scenario, a magistrate could issue a warrant for someone to be arrested and hauled before them for non-payment.

Challenging an FPN is complicated and has been much criticised as potentially unfair by expert lawyers.

Sometimes an individual police force may reverse a decision after direct lobbying.

The alternative is to argue it out in court. But that is expensive - and losing leads to a criminal conviction as it's a criminal court ruling.