Campaigners lose bid to bring High Court challenge against Met over ‘Partygate’
Campaigners have lost a bid to bring a High Court challenge against the Metropolitan Police over the force’s investigation into former prime minister Boris Johnson’s attendance at Number 10 parties during lockdown.
Mr Johnson received a fixed penalty notice (FPN) over a birthday party in the Cabinet Room in June 2020, but faced no further action over other gatherings covered by the Met’s Operation Hillman inquiry into events in No 10 and Whitehall.
However, according to a report by senior civil servant Sue Gray, released in July last year, Mr Johnson gave a leaving toast for departing communications chief Lee Cain on November 13 2020, days after ordering England’s second national lockdown.
Images published in her report showed Mr Johnson apparently raising a glass while surrounded by colleagues and bottles of wine.
He also gave a speech at an alcohol-fuelled leaving do for two No 10 officials on December 17 2020, with around 20 people in attendance, Ms Gray said.
Legal campaign group the Good Law Project (GLP) brought legal action against the force over its investigation, alongside former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met Lord Paddick.
The GLP argued the Met’s failure to send questionnaires to Mr Johnson in relation to those gatherings, and another in January 2021, and its failure to issue FPNs over them, was “irrational” given its decision on the June 2020 party and the findings in Ms Gray’s report.
But Mr Justice Swift refused to grant them permission for a full hearing of the case, following a hearing in London on Wednesday.
The judge said the grounds argued on behalf of GLP and Lord Paddick had “no prospect of success”.
He added: “It is not for the court to second-guess the steps the police should take for the purposes of investigation.”
The judge said Ms Gray was not considering whether FPNs should be issued in relation to the events, unlike the police who had to ensure they had enough evidence to prosecute the penalties if they were not paid.
The force issued 126 FPNs to 83 people at events in Downing Street and Whitehall, including to other attendees at both the November 13 2020 and December 17 2020 gatherings.
In a statement after the ruling, GLP director Jo Maugham said an appeal is being considered.
He added: “We are disappointed – but sadly not surprised.
“We think this decision ignores the quite proper questions that people have about what they understandably perceive to be differences of treatment between the powerful and the rest of us.
“It can’t be one rule for those in power, and another rule for us.”