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What do the partygate fines mean? Fixed penalty notices explained and what happens if Boris Johnson gets one



The Met Police is close to issuing its first tranche of fines for lockdown-breaking parties across Downing Street and Whitehall.

The force is investigating 12 alleged breaches as part of Operation Hillman, launched in January. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is claimed to have attended as many of six of the events.

The Metropolitan Police said today that investigators will begin to refer the notices to the ACRO Criminal Records Office, which would be responsible for issuing the penalties.

It is expected that further fines could be issued as officers continue to go through the evidence gathered.

Twenty fixed penalty notices (FPNs) will be issued today, but Scotland Yard has not named the individuals facing the penalties or revealed which events they attended.

While it is usual practice for forces to identify someone facing a criminal charge, this is not the case with lesser offences dealt with via on-the-spot fines, such as Covid breaches or speeding offences.

Downing Street has said it will confirm if Mr Johnson is handed an FPN, though the initial wave of fines is not expected to include the Prime Minister, as he is contesting the allegations and took advice from his personal lawyer on how to respond.

Last week it emerged that detectives investigating alleged parties had begun interviewing key witnesses.

i takes a look at what happens next after fines are issued – from how much fines might be to what happens if Boris Johnson receives one.

How much are the fines likely to be?

The fines are expected to be up to £100, the amount that people who flouted lockdown restrictions were charged throughout the pandemic.

Those receiving FPNs today will be forced to pay the fine unless they are able to successfully challenge it.

Under lockdown rules and the Health Protection Act, people who broke Covid restrictions could be awarded fines up to £3,200 for repeated offences.

But it is unclear whether people who attended multiple gatherings will face higher fines, or whether the size of the gathering will mean the amount of the fine will vary.

Will the fines affect criminal records?

The Criminal Records Office states that FPNs issued for offences under coronavirus legislation are non-recordable, which means that whether it is FPN is paid or contested, it will not be recorded on the Police National Computer. Local records may be held by the relevant force, however.

The fines need to be paid within 28 days, or contested. If someone chooses to contest the fine, the police will then review the case and decide whether to withdraw the fine or proceed the matter to court.

What could happen if Boris Johnson gets fined?

The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended himself and the Government in light of allegations that Covid restrictions were broken by gatherings and parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall in 2020 and 2021.

It is not yet clear whether Mr Johnson himself will receive a fine from the Metropolitan Police over the apparent breaches, and Downing Street has refused to be drawn on whether Mr Johnson would resign if he was issued with a fixed penalty notice.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That is a hypothetical situation.”

The spokesman also declined to say whether individuals who were fined could carry on working in No 10: “There are specific HR processes in place for individuals. I am not going get into what those entail in detail.”

Mr Johnson came under intense pressure to quit as a result of the partygate scandal, but in recent weeks the war in Ukraine has seen Tory MPs rally round the leader at a time of international crisis.

But the Met’s intervention, confirming it believes laws were broken at the heart of Government, could reignite the debate about his leadership.

A campaign group for bereaved relatives of people who died with coronavirus today condemned Downing Street and the drawn-out process of issuing fixed penalty notices for its lockdown breaches, adding that the Prime Minister “should have resigned months ago”.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said in a written statement: “Frankly, bereaved families have seen enough. The PM should have resigned months ago over this. By dragging it out longer all he is doing is pouring more salt on the wounds of those who have already suffered so much.”

Many Tory backbenchers had already called for the PM to step down in the wake of the Sue Gray report, with some submitting letters to the 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.

A total of 15 Tory MPs had publicly called for Mr Johnson to go by February this year, but not all admitted whether they had submitted letters. Sir Graham would have to receive 54 letters to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minster.

More from News

Which parties are being investigated by the police?

Police are investigating 12 different Downing Street and Whitehall gatherings across eight days, including some attended by Mr Johnson.

  • 20 May 2020: ‘Bring your own booze’ gathering in Downing Street garden, which was attended by staff, the PM and Carrie Johnson.
  • 18 June 2020: Previously-unknown Cabinet Office gathering to mark the departure of No 10 private secretary.
  • 19 June 2020: Gathering in the Cabinet Room for the Prime Minister’s birthday.
  • 13 November 2020: Gathering in Downing Street to mark the departure of Dominic Cummings.
  • 13 November 2020: Reported party in Mr Johnson’s private Downing Street flat.
  • 17 December 2020: Online Christmas quiz in the private office of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
  • 17 December 2020: Leaving drinks for officials in the Cabinet Office.
  • 17 December 2020: Previously-unknown gathering “on the departure of a No 10 official”.
  • 18 December 2020: Downing Street Christmas party, where staff are alleged to have exchanged secret Santa presents
  • 14 January 2021: Previously unknown gathering to mark the departure of two No 10 private secretaries.
  • 16 April 2021: Leaving drinks held in Downing Street for James Slack, the PM’s official spokesperson.
  • 16 April 2021: Separate leaving drinks for a Downing Street photographer, with officials bringing in a suitcase full of wine.

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