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Boris Johnson referred to police over new claims he broke COVID rules

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) -Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been referred to police by the government’s Cabinet Office over new allegations he broke lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for overseeing the operation of government, said it had made a referral to two regional police forces based on information discovered while preparing submissions for a public inquiry into the pandemic.

The Times newspaper, which first reported the news on Tuesday, said ministerial diaries showed visits by friends to Chequers, a rural country mansion which is made available to sitting prime ministers, during the pandemic.

“Some abbreviated entries in Mr Johnson’s official diary were queried by the Cabinet Office during preparation for the COVID inquiry,” Johnson’s spokesperson said.

“Following an examination of the entries, Mr Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the Cabinet Office and privileges committee explaining that the events were lawful and were not breaches of any COVID regulations.”

The Times article also quoted Johnson’s team as calling the referral a “clearly politically motivated attempt to manufacture something out of nothing”.

The Cabinet Office confirmed it had passed information to the police:

“Information came to light during the process of preparing evidence for submission to the COVID inquiry. It was identified as part of the normal disclosure review of potentially relevant documents being undertaken by the legal team for inquiry witnesses,” a spokesperson said.

“In line with obligations in the civil service code, this material has been passed to the relevant authorities and it is now a matter for them.”

Johnson has previously been fined by police for attending an event to celebrate his birthday in Downing Street in June 2020, making him the first prime minister found to have broken the law while in office.

Those fines contributed to his ousting as prime minister last year.

He also remains under investigation by a parliamentary committee over whether he intentionally or recklessly misled the House of Commons in a series of statements, where he said no rules were broken in the gatherings.

In relation to the latest allegations, London’s Metropolitan police confirmed it had received information from the Cabinet Office and was assessing it. They said it related to potential breaches of health protection regulation between June 2020 and May 2021.

Thames Valley Police, the force which covers the area around Chequers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by William James;Editing by Alison Williams)


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