Sue Gray report: Met Police accused of ‘cover-up’ over last-minute intervention

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The Metropolitan Police have been criticised after telling Sue Gray to make “minimal reference” to potentially illegal Downing Street parties in her long-awaited report (PA)
The Metropolitan Police have been criticised after telling Sue Gray to make “minimal reference” to potentially illegal Downing Street parties in her long-awaited report (PA)

The Metropolitan Police has been accused of orchestrating a "cover-up" after telling Sue Gray to make “minimal reference” to potentially illegal Downing Street parties in her long-awaited report.

The Met said on Friday morning: "For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.

"The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation."

There has been an unexpected delay to the report, after the Met's announcement they were launching a criminal probe is said to have sparked a “legal scrubbing” process.

The announcement buys more time for Boris Johnson as he faces a threat to his leadership.

It has been met with incredulity from some, and others have accused the process of being a "cover up".

File photo dated 31/10/2019 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Police Commissioner Cressida Dick during a visit to Metropolitan Police training college in Hendon, north London. Dame Cressida has told the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee that Scotland Yard has launched an investigation into potential breaches of coronavirus laws at a
Cressida Dick, picture with Boris Johnson in 2019, said the force were launching a criminal probe into the Downing Street parties on Wednesday (PA)

Tory MP and former special constable Roger Gale said that as long as the Met cannot legally prevent her, Gray “should publish and be damned.”

He told BBC World at One: “This has all the makings of a Whitehall farce made in Scotland Yard...unless there’s a legal barrier to Sue Gray publishing her report it should be published now and in full.”

Labour MP Diane Abbot Tweeted: "Completely unsurprising that the Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has effectively gagged Sue Gray’s report into parties at Number 10. A crude cover up."

And a backbench Tory MP told Politics Home: "This looks like a cover up, and I'm not saying it was a cover up.

"It might just be that this is how it's played out, that the terms of reference did say she needs to bring in the police if there's crimes.

But the announcement has been met with incredulity from some, and others have accused the process of being a
But the announcement has been met with incredulity from some, and others have accused the process of being a "cover up" (Twitter)

"But, frankly, the Met refused to investigate. Somebody else has done all the work. Then they said, we will take it from here and, by the way you can't publish it. It's a complete joke."

Yesterday Boris Johnson promised the report would be released in full.

With no clear indication of when Gray’s findings will be delivered to his office, Johnson has been continuing with his diary events rather than waiting for the report to arrive.

The Gray report is being heralded as a make-or-break moment for Johnson's premiership.

It had been reported to be ready for release imminently, but it is thought the police investigation has granted a temporary reprieve for the embattled PM.

But there has been some confusion over why exactly the police wish to ask for minimal reference into events they are investigating in a factual civil service report.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner tweeted: "I am not a criminal lawyer so perhaps I am missing something. How would a factual civil service report about events the police is investigating "prejudice" their investigation?"

He added: "I suppose the police might argue that there is a possibility down the line of a jury trial e.g. if. there are misconduct in public office charges, but it still seems odd to say that Sue Gray's findings would at this very early stage "prejudice" anything.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales. The Prime Minister is set to face further questions over a police investigation into partygate as No 10 braces for the submission of Sue Gray's report into possible lockdown breaches. Picture date: Thursday January 27, 2022.
Battling to stay in No 10, Johnson is reportedly considering delaying a rise in National Insurance to sooth backbench Tory anger (PA)

"And don't forget that most if not all of the offences at issue here (the coronavirus regulations offences) are "summary only" offences, so no possibility of a jury trial. So why suppress parts of this report which itself will only refer those issues?"

If the finding of Gray's report are damning - including whether Johnson broke COVID-19 rules after attending a "bring your own booze" party in Downing Street during lockdown - it is widely rumoured Tory MPs will force a vote of no confidence.

The senior civil servant was tasked with the inquiry into the Downing Street lockdown parties, after Johnson issued a grovelling apology for attending a "bring your own booze" party during May 2020, when the rest of the country were under strict lockdown rules banning socialising.

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner queried why the report needed to have minimal reference (Twitter)
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner queried why the report needed to have minimal reference (Twitter)
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner queried why the report needed to have minimal reference (Twitter)
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner queried why the report needed to have minimal reference (Twitter)

Battling to stay in No 10, Johnson is reportedly considering delaying a rise in National Insurance intended to cover social care reforms and tackle the NHS backlog, in order to soothe backbench Tory anger.

The Prime Minister is also coming under pressure over leaked emails that seemingly contradict his insistence that he did not personally intervene in the airlift of animals from Afghanistan while thousands of people wanting to flee the Taliban were left behind.

So far seven Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to quit, but others are believed to have done so privately in letters to the chairman of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee.

If the number of letters received by Sir Graham Brady hits 54, representing 15% of all Tory MPs, then a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership is triggered.

Mr Johnson would have to then win the support of half of Conservatives MPs in order to stay in No 10.

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