Boris Johnson's possible Partygate fines 'could total £10K'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday February 9, 2022.
Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing to attend Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. (PA)

Boris Johnson could face fines totalling more than £10,000 if police find he broke COVID-19 laws with Downing Street parties, an expert has said.

The Metropolitan Police announced on Wednesday they will be contacting 50 people they believe to have attended events during lockdowns.

Operation Hillman – the name given to the probe into Downing Street parties – will see police send formal questionnaires to alleged attendees of eight events.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner told Radio 4: "It's very significant because it appears the police at least think they're getting towards the point where they can start issuing fixed penalty notices.

"It sounds to me, although I haven't seen the letters, that they've decided the relevant gatherings were potentially a breach of the regulations and now they're asking people did you have some sort of reasonable excuse, which in law would effectively be a defence for being there."

Read more: Moment Boris Johnson ambushed after new Xmas lockdown picture of PM with booze and tinsel

He added that police should have already received the details of the Sue Gray report, so they will be focusing on finalising the details.

The most likely form of punishment, Wagner added, will be a fixed term penalty which police issue when they believe "a person has committed a criminal offence".

For the earliest gatherings this could be as low as £60, but repeated offences could see the figure rise as high as £6,400.

Wagner said that there are potentially six gatherings the PM attended, meaning the total could rise quickly.

"There are 12 gatherings being investigated, the person we know was probably at six was the prime minister," he said.

"So if he was given a fixed penalty notice for each and every one of those i think he would be given those cumulative amounts until eventually the final one would be £6,400.

"So overall assuming there isn't a big £10,000 one for hosting a gathering in the flat with over 30 people he could still be in line for over £10,000 of fixed penalty notices if they accumulate."

The image of a Christmas event on December 15, 2020, was released as Johnson stood in the Commons
The image of a Christmas event on December 15, 2020, was released as Johnson stood in the Commons

The Partygate scandal has now been rumbling on and dominating headlines for more than a month, despite repeated efforts from the prime minister to move the conversation on.

He made a triumphant return to the House of Commons for PMQs on Wednesday afternoon, but was visibly taken aback after The Mirror published a picture of him hosting a Christmas quiz on December 15, 2020, was released – while he was stood at the despatch box,

The photo shows him and three members of staff, including one wearing tinsel, near an uncorked bottle and an open bag of crisps.

MPs could be seen showing each other their phones as news of the picture emerged.

At the time of the picture London was under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing indoors between two or more people from different households.

The Metropolitan Police has since announced that it is reviewing its decision not to include the 15 December quiz in its criminal investigation into Partygate.

The force said in a statement: “The MPS previously assessed this event and determined that on the basis of the evidence available at that time, it did not meet the threshold for criminal investigation.

"That assessment is now being reviewed.”