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What did Sue Gray's report say about lockdown parties in Downing Street?

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By Euronews
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Tilbury Docks in Tilbury, England, Jan. 31, 2022.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Tilbury Docks in Tilbury, England, Jan. 31, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The long-awaited report into the lockdown-breaching parties at Downing Street found there were "failures of leadership" and that some of the behaviour surrounding the gathering is "difficult to justify".

The report's conclusions were placed in doubt last week when British police asked for some of the investigation's findings to be withheld.

Police said they wanted to avoid "any prejudice to our investigation" and denied acting to delay the report.

Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who probed the gatherings, acknowledged in the report the Metropolitan Police's request that she make "minimal reference" to the gatherings they are investigating, means that she is "extremely limited in what I can say about these events and it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information I have been able to gather".

She probed a dozen gatherings including the "Bring Your Own Booze" party held on May 20, 2020, a Christmas quiz, a Christmas party as well as several leaving-dos for advisers and officials.

More than 70 people were interviewed by her team as part of the investigation while documents including emails, Whatsapp messages, text messages, photographs and building entry and exit logs were also examined.

Gray stressed that "it is not for me to make a judgment on whether the criminal law has been broken; that is properly a matter for law enforcement".

She found, however, that given the COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time of the gatherings, "some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify".

"At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.

"At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did," she added.

She also flagged that some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work "but at times felt unable to do so".

"No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it," she added.

Finally, she concluded that "there is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded."

Police have told Gray that on the basis of the information available, four of the gatherings she examined "are not considered to have reached the threshold for criminal investigation."

The scandal, dubbed "Partygate", has weakened Johnson's leadership with the opposition and some lawmakers from his own Conservative party calling for his resignation.