July 4, 2022

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Former Whitehall ethics chief ‘fined over Cabinet Office leaving party’

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A former Whitehall ethics chief has reportedly been fined in connection with a party held during lockdown.

Helen MacNamara, an ex-deputy cabinet secretary, is said to be among the first wave of people to be dealt a fixed-penalty notice (FPN) by the Metropolitan Police as part of its investigation into the Partygate scandal.

She received the fine on Friday in relation to a leaving party at the Cabinet Office on 18 June 2020 to mark the departure of a private secretary, according to the The Daily Telegraph.

Ms MacNamara was the director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office from 2018 to 2020 and left government to work for the Premier League.

The purpose of her role was to ensure the highest standards of propriety, integrity and governance within government.

It has also been reported by ITV News that Boris Johnson will not be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police as part of their investigation into the string of lockdown-busting parties held in Whitehall.

This is because the force is not interviewing those who have received questionnaires as part of the inquiries, the broadcaster said.

The Met is investigating 12 events, including as many as six that Mr Johnson is said to have attended. The force has sent out more than 100 questionnaires, including one to Mr Johnson in February.

It follows several reports that suggest people have also received £50 fines linked with a gathering that took place on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year. These FPNs were among the initial round of 20 issued by the Metropolitan Police.

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Downing Street staff attended two separate parties on the evening before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral amid strict Covid rules, which saw the Queen forced to sit alone as she bid farewell to her husband of 73 years, it has been alleged.

Two events were reported to have been held on the evening of 16 April 2021 – when the country was under step two Covid-19 restrictions which banned indoor mixing.

Both events were said to be leaving parties for staff working in the prime minister’s inner team. One was reportedly held for James Slack, Boris Johnson’s then-director of communications, and the other for the prime minister’s personal photographer.

Witnesses said that “excessive alcohol” was drunk, attendees danced to music DJ’d by a special adviser, and the gatherings lasted beyond midnight.

The Guardian reports that a note sent by the Operation Hillman team, investigating the lockdown-breaching events, told some of them that it had been “assessed that there are reasonable grounds to believe that you committed an offence in contravention of the regulations”.

The email, which was received by some late last week, added: “In light of this, you are to be reported for the issuance of a fixed penalty notice (FPN), offering you the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction for the offence by payment of a fixed penalty.”

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard told The Independent it would not be providing a “running commentary” on the fines issued, or the identities of those issued a FPN.

But last week, the Met confirmed that 20 Covid offences in Downing Street and Whitehall had so far resulted in fines.

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The referrals represented the first penalties to be imposed in relation to a series of 12 gatherings in 2020 and 2021 and the first police confirmation that coronavirus laws were broken.

With additional reporting from PA

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