British police conclude investigation of Boris Johnson’s ‘partygate’ scandal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing St. for his weekly grilling in Parliament on Wednesday.
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Scotland Yard says it has concluded its investigation into parties and gatherings at British government offices during COVID lockdown, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence, and has issued a total of 126 fines.

Police said Thursday that they issued “fixed-penalty notices” to 53 men and 73 women for gatherings that took place on eight dates between May 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in Britain, and April 2021. Some people received multiple fines.

The scandal, dubbed “partygate” by the media, has dealt a heavy blow to Johnson’s leadership.


The conclusion of the police investigation means that results from a separate probe by a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, can now be published. Government officials say the Gray report, which is being closely watched for the extent to which it censures Johnson and his Conservative government, will be published as soon as possible, though probably not before next week.

Johnson apologized last month after he revealed that he was among dozens of people who paid a police fine for attending lockdown-breaching parties and gatherings. That made him the first British leader to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.

Revelations that Johnson and other senior officials gathered illegally in government buildings — including enjoying “wine time Fridays” reportedly organized by Johnson’s staff — at a time when millions in the country stuck to strict government restrictions to slow the coronavirus’ spread have angered voters and triggered calls for Johnson to resign.

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March 11, 2022

Johnson’s spokesman said Thursday that he would not be receiving any more fines on top of the one he has already paid.

Scotland Yard “has confirmed they are taking no further action” against the prime minister, spokesman Max Blain said.

Police do not identify the people who received fines, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, as well as Johnson’s wife, Carrie, have said they were among those penalized along with Johnson for attending a birthday party thrown for the prime minister in June 2020.


Johnson has repeatedly apologized but denied that he knowingly broke the rules. He has insisted that it “did not occur” to him that the gathering in his office, which he said lasted less than 10 minutes, was a party.

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Opposition parties reiterated their calls for Johnson to resign and said the Gray report should be published without delay.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said there could be “no further hiding places” for Johnson for the “industrial-scale law-breaking” at government sites.

“That reflects a culture and the prime minister sets the culture,” he said.

Starmer faces a police investigation over his own conduct during the pandemic — he has acknowledged he had a beer and a takeout curry with colleagues in April 2021, when Britain was under coronavirus restrictions. Starmer insisted that the meal was part of a working day and broke no rules.

The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group called the police fines a “terrible insult” to all who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

“The nearly half-a-million pounds this investigation has cost could have been spent on support services for the bereaved. Instead it was spent investigating our own government, and all because they lied and failed to acknowledge they had broken the law,” said Safiah Ngah, who lost her father to COVID-19 in February 2021.

More than 177,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for the coronavirus, the highest toll in Europe after Russia.