A leading barrister has come forward to say any ‘parties’ at No. 10 “almost certainly did not break the law.”
Writing in the Spectator, Steven Barrett a leading barrister at Radcliffe Chambers who read law at Oxford and taught law at Cambridge wrote:
“During the course of the pandemic, the Covid laws have changed regularly. Yet one thing has stayed largely consistent: the rules have always treated people and places differently. Despite what some might claim, there’s nothing sinister in this.
“And it’s for this reason that the ‘cheese and wine’ gathering – which the PM has said did not take place – probably isn’t a matter for the police. During the course of the pandemic, the Covid laws have changed regularly.
“The starting point in the Covid rules should be section 73 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. This part of the Act states that the Covid regulations, at all times, never applied to Crown Land (which includes No. 10). This only changed if No. 10 made a written agreement to be voluntarily bound – and no one thinks they did. So the regulations almost certainly never applied to No. 10 anyway.”
According to Barrister Barrett the reason being; in the eighties “lawmakers decided that it would be better to allow the government to function during any future national pandemic without having to worry about being caught up in quarantine regulations. The thinking was that by making the government effectively exempt in law, the government could continue to function.”
Mr Barrett adds in addition to the 1984 Act, there were also specific regulations that applied at the time of the alleged ‘cheese and wine gate’: the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.
The barrister says according to these rules, gatherings were allowed in all public buildings, or parts of them ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.’
Mr Barrett concluded:
“So it seems likely that whatever happened in Downing Street was legal. Of course, this won’t placate Boris Johnson’s critics – nor will it do much to dent the attacks on the PM. But these people can rest assured that the law was not broken.
“In our legal system, people are innocent until proven guilty. People do not get to just say that crimes occurred and then demand that someone prove themselves innocent. Criminal lawyers will grandiosely call this ‘the golden thread’ that runs through their area of law. It applies to people they don’t like as much as those they do. And it should apply in this case.
“Far worse than this though is that another greater wrong has occurred. The public have been mistakenly told that some people are above the law. No one is above the law. That is what the rule of law means. If public confidence in that is undermined then that is a very serious issue. People need to stop playing politics with the law.”
Sue Gray, a senior official, has been charged with investigating claims that lockdown-busting parties took place in Downing Street. According to the Cabinet Office, the “primary purpose” of Ms Gray’s inquiry is to “establish swiftly a general understanding of the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, the setting and the purpose, with reference to adherence to the guidance in place at the time”. She is expected to report her findings this week.