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CrimeForce faces a backlash over its costly Partygate inquiry...

Force faces a backlash over its costly Partygate inquiry as violent crime surged in London 

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Scotland Yard faced a backlash last night over the £460,000 cost of the Partygate probe at a time when it is battling rocketing crime levels.

Helen Ball, Met acting deputy commissioner, declared it worth the money, citing the number of fines issued as evidence the ‘investigation needed to happen’.

After a four-month probe by her force’s ‘Celebrity Squad’, 126 fines have been issued to 83 individuals, some of whom received up to five £50 penalties for attending parties in breach of Covid rules.

Penalties have been handed out by detectives to 48 women and 35 men, including Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, along with many civil servants working at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office.

Police faced a backlash last night over the £460K cost of the Partygate probe Across the UK, 126 fines were issued to 83 individuals after a four-month probe

Police faced a backlash last night over the £460K cost of the Partygate probe Across the UK, 126 fines were issued to 83 individuals after a four-month probe

But last night critics questioned the significant public spending on the investigation in the face of crime rising 11 per cent in a year.

Susan Hall, Tory chairman of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, condemned the Partygate probe. She added: ‘This has been an absolutely appalling waste of public money.

THE TORY MP WHO CHANGED HIS TUNE ON BORIS

‘[Partygate] is an inevitable tragedy… it is going to end in him going’

–  Charles Walker MP in February 2022

‘Most people thought he was down out, I was one of them… And he removed the script’

– Yesterday

‘I think it’s disgraceful, I really do. What a shocking waste of Met police time. Boris was ambushed with a cake at his birthday and it was worth all this?

‘Keir Starmer wanted to get one over on Boris Johnson and the Met were put under terrible pressure to investigate. I accept the parties were wrong and I’m livid about it.

‘But when you look at crime levels in London and the rate of sanction detections which are absolutely woeful, they do not give any confidence in the force.

‘The Met has some really serious challenges with knife and gun crime and the rise in rapes and sexual offences, surely officers have better things to do?’

Figures show that in the past year muggings rocketed 89 per cent, rapes increased 24 per cent and other sex offences leapt by 43 per cent compared with 2020-21.

Despite efforts by the Met to tackle murders and knife crime, offences of violence have shot up by 11 per cent, robbery has climbed 7 per cent and vehicle theft is up 14 per cent in London.

Separate analysis by the Daily Mail shows that there were 276,837 other crimes in the capital during the Partygate probe, which is 20 per cent more than the same period in January to April 2021.

In the four months to April, there were 78,236 violent offences, including 31 homicides, 72,398 thefts, 8,176 sex offences, 17,835 burglaries and 8,060 robberies.

Yet only 23,539 crimes of all types were solved in that period, fewer than 9 per cent.

Met figures show that last month alone the overall detection rate was down on last year by 35 per cent, and down 54 per cent for rape.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, who had suggested a number of times that Mr Johnson should go, said he now believed he had been wrong. He told the BBC’s Newsnight: ‘I don’t know who writes his scripts.

‘He is a bit like that all-rounder who has been written off time and time again and then grabs the bowling ball and takes five for 15 or smashes 100 or does both things in the same match.

‘Love him or loathe him, Boris Johnson is an extraordinary politician. Six months ago, four months ago, most people thought he was down and out. I was one of those people. And he rewrote the script.’

In February, Sir Charles was quoted in The Observer as saying: ‘It is an inevitable tragedy. He is a student of Greek and Roman tragedy. It is going to end in him going, so I just want him to have some agency in that.’

The ‘Celebrity Squad’ special inquiry team devoted 12 officers to the Partygate probe examining more than 1,000 pieces of evidence over four months, often working overtime.

When asked whether she thought it was worth the money, Miss Ball replied: ‘I do. I think it was important to investigate in the way that we have.

‘It was important to do it in a really thorough way which we have done and the outcomes I think show that – that investigation needed to happen.’

Penalties have been handed out by detectives to 48 women and 35 men, including Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, along with many civil servants working at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office

Penalties have been handed out by detectives to 48 women and 35 men, including Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, along with many civil servants working at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office 

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: If there’s one lesson from this pitiful farrago, it’s that such a sweeping affront to our liberties must never happen again 

You could almost hear the piteous wails of grief ringing across the newsrooms of the BBC and Guardian. That strangely rhythmic, thudding sound? Could it have been those two mad professors Dominic Cummings and ITV’s Robert Peston banging their heads on their desks in exasperation?

And the high priests of lockdown from SAGE and beyond must have ground their teeth so ferociously that the nation’s dentists should be rubbing their hands with glee.

Our thoughts are with them all at this difficult and distressing time.

For at precisely 10.43am yesterday, the massed ranks of Boris-haters discovered that months of hysteria, hyperbole and confected rage had come to nothing.

The Partygate inquiry was over and it had ended with a whimper rather than the bang they had longed for. Their desperate ploy to unseat the Prime Minister had failed.

After an entirely pointless Scotland Yard investigation, lasting four months, involving 12 detectives and costing an eye-popping £460,000, Boris Johnson received just one paltry fine.

Even that was a travesty. Two months after he almost died from Covid, No 10 colleagues surprised him with a birthday cake between work meetings in the Cabinet room.

The Partygate inquiry was over and it had ended with a whimper rather than the bang they had longed for. Their desperate ploy to unseat the Prime Minister had failed. After an entirely pointless Scotland Yard investigation, lasting four months, involving 12 detectives and costing an eye-popping £460,000, Boris Johnson received just one paltry fine

The Partygate inquiry was over and it had ended with a whimper rather than the bang they had longed for. Their desperate ploy to unseat the Prime Minister had failed. After an entirely pointless Scotland Yard investigation, lasting four months, involving 12 detectives and costing an eye-popping £460,000, Boris Johnson received just one paltry fine

Two months after he almost died from Covid, No 10 colleagues surprised him with a birthday cake between work meetings in the Cabinet room. Boris was there for just nine minutes. His then fiancée, Carrie, carrying their baby boy in her arms, was there for less than five. Pictured: Mr Johnson poses with a cake at a school in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire on June 19, 2020

Two months after he almost died from Covid, No 10 colleagues surprised him with a birthday cake between work meetings in the Cabinet room. Boris was there for just nine minutes. His then fiancée, Carrie, carrying their baby boy in her arms, was there for less than five. Pictured: Mr Johnson poses with a cake at a school in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire on June 19, 2020

Boris was there for just nine minutes. His then fiancée, Carrie, carrying their baby boy in her arms, was there for less than five.

The cake never left its Tupperware box and no drink was taken. Yet not only was Mr Johnson hit with a £50 penalty for breaching lockdown rules, but so was his Chancellor.

Rishi Sunak’s crime was to have arrived early for his meeting and joined in an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday for his boss. What on earth was he supposed to do? Run off and call 999?

This whole saga has been farcical. Yes, they made the rules and we are now told this was a technical breach. But the idea that this was, in any sense, a party is preposterous.

Rishi Sunak’s crime was to have arrived early for his meeting and joined in an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday for his boss. What on earth was he supposed to do? Run off and call 999?

Rishi Sunak’s crime was to have arrived early for his meeting and joined in an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday for his boss. What on earth was he supposed to do? Run off and call 999?

And the notion there was some deliberate, sustained and contemptuous flouting of restrictions — as Labour would have us believe —equally so.

At the time, Mr Johnson and his staff were engaged in a round-the-clock battle against the worst global health emergency in a century.

While the rest of Britain was working (or not!) from home, they were at their desks in Downing Street trying to save lives and protect the NHS.

They were toiling together in necessarily close proximity. Who would begrudge them some food and a drink at the end of a tough and deeply stressful day?

As the PM has consistently said, they did not believe — and were not advised by senior civil servants — that they were doing anything wrong.

There were exemptions from lockdown rules for those in a ‘work bubble’ and they assumed that on this basis their gatherings were above board. That they were apparently mistaken shows how baffling and draconian the rules were.

Just ask Sir Keir Starmer. With puce-faced piety, Labour’s leader has characterised Mr Johnson as the ringmaster of an endless circus of drunken revelry at the heart of government.

More than anyone, he put the bellows under this sorry affair, openly branding the Prime Minister a liar and charlatan who had stuck two fingers up to the British public. By contrast, he painted himself as a paragon — a man of unimpeachable integrity.

How hollow and hubristic he looks today. With Durham police investigating his own glaring Covid breach, his moral high horse has reared up and thrown him off. Indeed, his rule-breaking ‘Beergate’ party is far more egregious than Boris’s nine-minute birthday episode. It was a pre-planned, restrictions-busting event about which he has changed his story and dissembled from day one.

He has finally been rumbled for the sanctimonious prig he is and is now wriggling like a worm on a hook. And his attempt to retrieve his reputation has spectacularly backfired.

He clearly thought that pledging to resign if the police fined him was a clever chess move, putting pressure on Mr Johnson to do the same.

Embittered Remainers took this as a cue to excitedly prophesy the PM’s downfall, and Tory leadership hopefuls such as Jeremy Hunt were emboldened to flaunt their credentials.

But with yesterday’s developments, the game has changed dramatically.

With puce-faced piety, Labour’s leader has characterised Mr Johnson as the ringmaster of an endless circus of drunken revelry at the heart of government. More than anyone, he put the bellows under this sorry affair, openly branding the Prime Minister a liar and charlatan who had stuck two fingers up to the British public

With puce-faced piety, Labour’s leader has characterised Mr Johnson as the ringmaster of an endless circus of drunken revelry at the heart of government. More than anyone, he put the bellows under this sorry affair, openly branding the Prime Minister a liar and charlatan who had stuck two fingers up to the British public

While Mr Johnson is effectively out of the woods, with even critical Tory backbenchers falling in behind him, Sir Keir remains mired in his own police probe with the threat of self-enforced resignation hanging over him.

Let’s be clear, the Mail doesn’t believe either man should have to quit over the Covid breaches themselves. As the level of Scotland Yard fines demonstrates, they were unintentional and trivial.

However, Sir Keir has made such a political mountain out of this molehill that he has been the architect of his own misfortune.

He loves to claim that while ordinary people were banned from visiting dying relatives, Downing Street employees were ignoring their own restrictions and whooping it up.

This is a completely false narrative. This was drinks after work, not crashing into care homes with streamers and party hats. Many of the 200 staff will have suffered bereavement and family illness during lockdown — and abided by the same overweening restrictions.

With the puritanical zeal of a Witch-finder General, Sir Keir relentlessly denounced Mr Johnson as being unfit to hold high office. He has been hoist with his own pompous petard. From being the hunter, he has become the hunted and must now wait nervously for Durham Constabulary to pass its judgment on him.

But why on earth were the police involved at all? God knows, they have more important things to do than hand out the equivalent of parking tickets to politicians and their apparatchiks.

In the four-month period Scotland Yard was wasting time and precious resources in Downing Street, London was in the grip of a crime wave.

But why on earth were the police involved at all? God knows, they have more important things to do than hand out the equivalent of parking tickets to politicians and their apparatchiks

But why on earth were the police involved at all? God knows, they have more important things to do than hand out the equivalent of parking tickets to politicians and their apparatchiks

More than quarter of a million offences were committed, including killings, rapes, robberies, burglaries and violent assaults.

How many were detected? A derisory 12 per cent — less than one in eight. Where is the sense of priority?

Senior civil servant Sue Gray, who conducted the Cabinet Office inquiry into Partygate, also carries responsibility for stringing out this painful fiasco for so long.

She didn’t have to involve the police and shouldn’t have done so. The offences were so inconsequential they didn’t warrant the boys in blue barging into Downing Street.

She should have dealt with it all herself, reported promptly and put this whole mess to bed. Instead we have had four months of political limbo at the worst possible time — and her full findings still haven’t been published.

How on earth has it come to this? Europe is in a state of war, inflation is raging and a cost-of-living crunch is growing on a scale not seen here since the 1980s.

Northern Ireland is in crisis over the botched Protocol, there’s no end in sight to the flood of migrants crossing the Channel and militant transport unions are threatening to bring the country to a grinding halt.

All over the world, mystified onlookers must think we’ve taken leave of our senses. Instead of tackling the real problems that affect ordinary people, our political class has been obsessed with cheese and wine parties.

If Russian tanks had been at the gates of Paris, one feels the BBC would still have led its bulletins on Partygate — such is its loathing of the PM. And Labour would have been cheering it on.

During the pandemic, the British state imposed unprecedented constraints on the liberties we cherish.

When visiting dying relatives or drinking a cup of coffee on a park bench in open countryside becomes a criminal offence, something has gone terribly wrong.

The restrictions inflicted huge damage to the economy, children’s education and the public health. And latest evidence seriously questions whether they had much real effect.

If there is one lesson we must learn from this pitiful farrago, it is that such a sweeping affront to freedom can never be allowed to happen again.

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