Metropolitan Police refers itself to watchdog over handling of Downing Street party investigation

The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the police watchdog due to a complaint over its handling of an alleged Downing Street Christmas party.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb wrote to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to raise concerns over the lack of investigation into the event, which reportedly took place on 18 December 2020, when London was in the middle of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed her complaint has been split into two parts.

What parties are alleged to have taken place in Whitehall and Downing Street during lockdown?

Lady Jones had said 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.

Acting Detective Chief Superintendent Tony O’Sullivan, directorate of professional standards, told the Green Party peer in a letter: “I have referred your complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct given that you effectively allege misconduct in public office by MPS police officers.

“The IOPC will now make a determination as to whether the complaint needs to be investigated and if so, how.”

Staff reportedly held a cheese and wine night in Downing Street just days after London was placed in Tier 3 restrictions – meaning people were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household – with Secret Santa gifts exchanged.

The IOPC confirmed a referral letter from the Met Police had been received, adding: “We are assessing it to determine what, if any, further action may be required from us.”

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

“The Metropolitan Police Service is not the appropriate authority to handle complaints about the commissioner and, as such, this has been referred to MOPAC,” the inspector said.

MOPAC is the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, which sets the direction and budget for the Met.

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A spokesperson for the MOPAC said: “A complaint has been received and is under consideration.”

The prime minister has refused to deny any parties took place and repeatedly insisted guidance was followed at all times.

However, Boris Johnson’s advisor Allegra Stratton resigned after footage emerged of her joking about a gathering at a mock press conference.

An investigation into the events was originally supposed to be led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case but he has since been forced to recuse himself after it was revealed a Christmas event was held in his own private office last December.

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