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UK PM Boris Johnson fined over Downing Street lockdown parties

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By Euronews  with AP
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Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to be fined by police over Downing Street lockdown parties.

Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will receive penalties for breaking the government's own COVID regulations.

"The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices," a spokesman for 10 Downing Street told Euronews.

The “partygate” scandal has angered many in Britain and seen dozens of politicians and officials investigated over allegations that the government flouted its own pandemic restrictions.

Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer renewed his call for Johnson to leave office, along with his finance minister.

"Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign," he said on Twitter.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey tweeted to say that parliament must be recalled for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.

Johnson said later on Tuesday that he "fully respects" the outcome of the police investigation. He said he had paid the penalty and apologised for his "mistake".

When asked by Sky News if he would resign, he said he wanted to "get on and deliver the mandate I have".

There was public anger over revelations that his staff held office and garden parties — at least one had been billed as “bring your own booze” — birthday celebrations and “wine time Fridays” in 2020 and 2021 while millions in Britain were barred from meeting with friends and family because of his government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Thousands of people were fined by police for rule-breaking social gatherings.

The campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said on Twitter that it was "still unbelievably painful that @BorisJohnson was partying & breaking his own lockdown rules, while we were unable to be at loved ones' sides in their dying moments, or in miserable funerals with only a handful of people".

Police sent questionnaires to more than 100 people, including the prime minister, and interviewed witnesses as part of the investigation.

Johnson denied any wrongdoing, but was alleged to have been at several of the dozen events in his 10 Downing Street office and other government buildings that are being investigated by the police.

Opponents, and some members of the governing Conservative Party, have said that Johnson should resign if he is issued a fine for breaking rules he imposed on the rest of the country during the pandemic.

There may also now be renewed scrutiny over whether the prime minister, and his chancellor, told the truth in parliament when questioned as to whether they had attended parties.

The scandal had left Johnson’s tenure on a knife-edge before Russia launched a war in Ukraine more than a month ago that gave Britain’s politicians more urgent priorities and pushed the scandal from the headlines.

But the police have continued their investigation of dozens of politicians and officials.

"As of Tuesday, 12 April 2022 we have made over 50 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPN) to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for breaches of Covid-19 regulations," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Rishi Sunak, once seen as a potential candidate for prime minister, is already fighting to save his reputation after a series of news reports on his family’s finances raised questions about his judgment.

He called for an investigation into his own conduct after revelations that his Indian-born wife took advantage of rules that allow many foreigners to escape UK taxes on their overseas income.

It came as the chancellor was raising income taxes for most residents already facing a cost-of-living crisis tied to soaring energy prices.

_Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that six penalty notices had been issued. _