The Independent Office of Police Conduct has cleared the Metropolitan Police of misconduct over the alleged Christmas party at Downing Street on December 18 last year.
But the exoneration does not cover the Met’s failure to investigate an alleged breach of Covid-19 social distancing rules that were in force at the time.
No – it was cleared because the complainant, Baroness Jenny Jones, was not herself adversely affected by any such failure by the police.
Baroness Jones had stated that police working outside 10 Downing Street controlled “all access to and from Downing Street”.
“Put very simply, if there was an unlawful gathering taking place at No 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,” she said.
“I believe there is a case to answer for the police aiding and abetting a criminal offence or deliberately failing to enforce the law in favour of government politicians and their staff.”
She also argued that Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick’s decision not to investigate the reported party represented “a potential cover-up”.
Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Tony O’Sullivan of the Met Police responded that he had referred the complaint to the IOPC, “given that you effectively allege misconduct in public office by MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] police officers”.
But the watchdog said a “valid complaint” could only be made when “an individual, or someone acting on their behalf, has been adversely affected by the alleged conduct or its effects”.
And as there was no evidence Baroness Jones had been nearby when the event took place, “we have decided it is invalid”.
What a stitch-up!
It seems to This Writer that this superintendent only made the referral to the IOPC in the terms he did in order to secure a whitewash on specious grounds.
The issue isn’t whether Jenny Jones was personally affected by the alleged party, but whether it took place in defiance of then-enforced Covid-19 rules and police knew about it.
The grounds on which the IOPC looked into this are not valid at all because nobody is going to say they have been “adversely affected” by the conduct of police in failing to enforce those rules. They were having a party and the cops were (allegedly) turning a blind eye.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that Acting Det Ch Supt O’Sullivan has referred the second part of Baroness Jones’s complaint – that Commissioner Dick had not investigated the allegation of a party at 10 Downing Street – for investigation.
But this will be carried out by the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC) which sets the direction and budget for the Met.
Is that the appropriate organisation to investigate such an allegation?
I don’t know.
But I fear another whitewash.
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