London police said earlier Tuesday that they had issued more than 50 fines as part of their Operation Hillman investigation at government gatherings on Downing Street and Whitehall, while the rest of the country lived under severe pandemic restrictions. The parties’ revelations sparked national outrage.
Police fines are confirmation that Johnson and Sunak have violated Covid-19 laws created by their own government – although the prime minister has previously denied holding any parties and insisted that all guidelines have been followed. The sentence makes Johnson the first incumbent Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be found guilty of violating the law.
On Tuesday night, Johnson apologized for violating the blocking rules and said he had paid the fine issued by Sofia police.
“Today I received a notice of a fixed sentence from the Sofia police in connection with an event on Downing Street on June 19, 2020. Let me say right away that I paid the fine and once again offer a full apology,” Johnson told Sky News. He did not specify the amount of the fine.
ITV, a subsidiary of CNN, previously reported that two gatherings were held to celebrate Johnson’s birthday: one attended by about 30 people, held in the cabinet office on the afternoon of June 19, and the other that evening, organized at Johnson’s residence and attended by family friends.
A source who was working on Downing Street at the time had previously confirmed to CNN that the gathering had taken place that day and had been organized by his wife, Carrie, who led the happy birthday song.
The gathering was largely attended by what was considered Johnson’s closest circle at the time, CNN reports.
Johnson told Sky News on Tuesday that he did not think he was breaking the blocking rules when he attended a meeting at his office that day.
“It simply came to my notice then that it was a violation of the rules. But, of course, the police found something else, and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation, “he said.
Johnson added that he understood the reaction people may have to his actions, saying: “I understand the anger that many will feel that I myself have failed when it comes to following the very rules that the government I lead has introduced. to protect the public “
He also offered his explanation for the events of the day, saying that among the many “engagements on a day that happened to be my birthday, there was a short meeting in the office shortly after 2pm, lasting less than 10 minutes, during which people , with whom I work with kindly conveyed their good wishes. “
The so-called “Partygate” scandal, which emerged in late 2021, posed the most serious threat to Johnson’s post as prime minister. Reveals that the prime minister has attended several parties have already sparked fierce calls for him to resign ahead of a police fine on Tuesday.
Johnson’s reference to the scandal also drew condemnation. The prime minister initially dismissed allegations of illegal gatherings, saying there were no parties. When photos of these gatherings began to appear in the British media, he said he did not know about them and was outraged. After another image showed him and his wife allegedly attending such a party, he apologized, but said he thought he was attending a “work event.” Police have launched an investigation into a series of rallies following a January report by senior government official Sue Gray, commissioned by the government, condemning “serious non-compliance” with government standards.
Gray’s report says police are investigating at least 12 incidents – including at least two who were present at Johnson’s and a third held in his apartment, which he told lawmakers earlier did not happen. Police later said they were investigating events that occurred on eight separate dates between May 2020 and April 2021.
A statement from Met said they had received more than 300 photos and 500 pages of information for review during the investigation.
The Covid-19 Grieving Families Justice Group in the UK has called on Johnson and Sunak to resign, describing their behavior as “truly shameful”.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the band said: “After all, it’s still incredibly painful that @BorisJohnson was partying and breaking his own blocking rules, while we couldn’t be with loved ones in their dying moments or miserable funerals with just a handful people. ”
“We followed the rules. The fact that @BorisJohnson and @RishiSunak then lied about it and would have continued to do so if the police had not intervened is truly shameless. They broke the law. But even worse, they took us all for glasses. When we met with the Prime Minister in the garden of @downingstreet – the same one where these parties took place – he looked us in the eye and said that he had done everything possible to save our loved ones. We already know this is a lie. “
Leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, also immediately demanded that Johnson and Sunak resign. “Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are completely unfit to rule. Britain deserves better,” Starmer tweeted.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also called for Johnson to resign.
“Boris Johnson must resign. He broke the law and repeatedly lied to parliament about it. The fundamental values of integrity and decency – essential to the proper functioning of any parliamentary democracy – require him to leave. And he has to get his way out of the Chancellor’s touch with him, “she said on Twitter.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also called on Johnson to leave, saying “a prime minister who violates the laws his government makes and then lies about is not fit for office”.
“Families have made huge sacrifices and obeyed the law. Many said goodbye to their loved ones on the phone while the prime minister was partying,” Khan added in a statement on Facebook.
According to ministerial rules, if a government minister violates the ministerial code, he is expected to step down. The code includes the “comprehensive obligation” of ministers to abide by the law.
Matt police say an investigation into illegal gatherings on Downing Street is ongoing.
CNN’s Luke McGee, Max Foster and Lindsay Isaac contributed to the report.