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The investigation into a string of parties in Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns is one of the most highly anticipated reports in recent history. But the report could be delayed due to the Metropolitan Police decision to investigate “potential breaches” of coronavirus legislation in Downing Street and Whitehall.
It’s believed that the force is investigating about eight events, which could include the late-night party the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral and the May 20 bring-your-own-booze party Mr Johnson claimed he believed was a “work event”.
In a statement on Friday morning, the Met said: “For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.
“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”
The decision could see the most damning elements of the report shielded from the public eye while the investigation continues – and could delay the widely predicted resignation of the Prime Minister.
READ MORE: Sue Gray report: Met demand evidence on Boris parties kept to minimum
But a keen eye will be able to notice that the Met Police’s request to make sure only “minimal reference” was made to the subjects of their inquiries makes little sense.
The reason the Met Police are citing that any references to current investigations could be predjudicial – an action that substantially affects a litigant’s legal rights – but this can only be the case if any eventual charges were to be tried by a jury.
You cannot be tried by a jury for breaking lockdown rules – a failure to comply with coronavirus rules is a summary offence, which is only heard in the jury-less Magistrates’ Court.
An offender would only face criminal prosecution if a fixed penalty breach was unpaid after 28 days.
Nazir Afzal, a former chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, said on Twitter: “This is absolute nonsense from the Met Police.
“A purely factual report by Sue Gray cannot possibly prejudice a police investigation.
“They just have to follow the evidence, of which the report will be a part.”
Downing Street said it was not the case that No 10 had asked Sue Gray’s team to go back to the Metropolitan Police to ensure her report did not interfere with police investigations.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “No, you’ll be aware that the terms of reference clearly set out that the Cabinet Office would keep in contact with the police and again it’s an independent investigation.
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“We haven’t been privy to the details of that investigation or any of its content.
“So that would be a matter for the investigations team and the Met.”
Opposition leaders have also questioned why the Met Police wished to have parts of the investigation blockaded from the public view for the time being.
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: “The Sue Gray report must be published in full and undoctored without further delay.
“This UK Government farce has gone on long enough.
“People are understandably concerned that this increasingly looks like a cover up.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Metropolitan Police for comment.
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