LONDON: Scotland Yard on Tuesday said that over 50 fines will be issued to people who organised or attended parties at Downing Street and within UK government offices in Whitehall in London in breach of COVID lockdown rules at the time.
The Metropolitan Police had launched Operation Hillman following an internal inquiry into what became widely known as the "partygate" scandal, which led British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to issue an apology in Parliament.
Last month, the police force had confirmed 20 fines, a number which now goes up to at least 30 more fines or "referrals" for so-called fixed penalty notices to the force's official criminal records unit.
"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 who following the referral issue the FPNs to the individual," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
"We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed, this includes continuing to assess significant amounts of investigative material from which further referrals may be made to ACRO Criminal Records Office," the statement said.
Fixed penalty notices are a sanction for breaking the law and mean a fine needs to be paid within 28 days unless contested. If someone chooses to contest the fine, the police will then review the case and decide whether to withdraw the fine or take the matter to court.
The police have been investigating 12 events that may have breached coronavirus lockdown rules in place in 2020-2021, including several believed to have been attended by Johnson. One was a surprise birthday gathering for him in the Cabinet room at Downing Street in June 2020.
As part of their inquiries, the police sent out over 100 questionnaires seeking information about participation in the events. The UK prime minister was among those 100 who were sent formal legal questionnaires relating to Operation Hillman, which was launched in January.
While the individuals issued with the fines have not been named by the police, Downing Street has said that the public would be made aware if Boris Johnson receives a fixed penalty notice. A typical fine for breach of COVID rules varies between 50 pounds up to 300 pounds, depending on the severity of the breach.
Scotland Yard launched its investigation following the conclusion of the internal government inquiry led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, whose report found "failures of leadership and judgement" in government.