Police watchdog will not investigate No 10 party complaint

The police watchdog has decided it will not investigate a complaint over the Metropolitan Police’s handling of an alleged Downing Street party.

Scotland Yard referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after concerns were raised over its response to the December 18 2020 event, and its lack of an investigation.

After “having fully assessed the referral”, the IOPC “decided it is invalid” and returned it to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to handle as “it determines would be appropriate”.

Investigatory Powers Tribunal
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb initially wrote to the watchdog to make a complaint, with the Met replying to her to confirm it had been split into two parts.

Lady Jones argued there is a “case to answer” for the Met “aiding and abetting a criminal offence, or deliberately failing to enforce the law in favour of Government politicians and their staff” due to the “extensive” police presence in Downing Street.

In her complaint letter, she added: “If there was an unlawful gathering taking place at Number 10 Downing Street then the police must have known, and were highly likely to have played an active part in organising or facilitating the illegal gathering.”

An IOPC spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We can confirm that on December 17 we received a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) of a complaint about an alleged party at Downing Street in December 2020.

“Having fully assessed the referral we have decided it is invalid and we have returned it to the MPS to handle as it determines would be appropriate.

“Under the relevant legislation, a valid complaint can only be made where an individual, or someone acting on their behalf, has been adversely affected by the alleged conduct or its effects.

“There was nothing within the referral to indicate the complainant was physically present or nearby when officers stationed at Downing Street allegedly failed to enforce Covid rules. Nor is there a suggestion that they were physically present or sufficiently nearby when the effects of the officers’ alleged actions occurred.

“If evidence were to come to light that anyone serving with the police may have breached standards of professional behaviour or committed a criminal offence, linked to the alleged party, we have reminded the Metropolitan Police of its obligations to refer relevant matters to us, irrespective of whether or not a valid complaint has been made.”

Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Tony O’Sullivan, directorate of professional standards, told Lady Jones her complaint had been referred to the IOPC given “you effectively allege misconduct in public office by MPS police officers”.

On the second part, a Met inspector said it related to Lady Jones’s complaint that Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick “refused to investigate allegations of an unlawful gathering on December 18 2020″.

This was referred to the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (Mopac), which sets the direction and budget for the Met.

Mopac confirmed it is assessing the complaints to decide if further action is required.

It is alleged a Christmas party in Downing Street on December 18 last year saw officials and advisers make speeches, enjoy a cheese board, drink together and exchange Secret Santa gifts, although the Prime Minister is not thought to have attended.

Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.

The event is at the heart of an investigation being led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, which is examining lockdown-breaking parties across Whitehall.