London: Boris Johnson, who was forced to resign as British prime minister last year in the wake of controversies including the partygate scandal of COVID law-breaking parties at Downing Street, has been referred to police over new claims that he may have breached pandemic lockdown rules.
While Johnson has dismissed the allegations as “bizarre and unacceptable”, the UK Cabinet Office is said to have forwarded his ministerial diary entries from the time over concerns about certain visits to his prime ministerial country residence during the lockdown.
The Times newspaper, which first reported the development on Tuesday, said Johnson, 58, has been referred to Thames Valley Police because his ministerial diary revealed visits by family and friends to Chequers at a time when there were strict restrictions on inter-household mixing to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“In line with obligations in the Civil Service Code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities, and it is now a matter for them,” the Cabinet Office said.
It said the information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the COVID inquiry, an independent review of the UK’s handling of the pandemic and its impact.
Johnson, however, complained of a “politically motivated stitch-up” and insisted that all events in question were within the rules either because they were held outdoors or came within another “lawful exception”.
“The assertion by the Cabinet Office that there have been further COVID rule breaches is totally untrue,” Johnson’s spokesperson said.
“Lawyers have examined the events in question and advised that they were lawful. No contact was made with Mr Johnson before these incorrect allegations were made both to the police and to the [Parliament] privileges committee. This is both bizarre and unacceptable,” the spokesperson said.
It was claimed that the latest move was an attempt to prolong an ongoing parliamentary probe into Johnson’s conduct by the House of Commons Privileges Committee. The cross-party panel is investigating whether Johnson knowingly misled Parliament over what he knew about law-breaking parties and gatherings at Downing Street during the lockdown.
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Johnson’s lawyers have since written to the police “to explain in detail why the Cabinet Office is entirely wrong in its assertions”.
The police have said they are currently “assessing” concerns, and no formal investigation has been launched.
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