UK police close Cummings' against for defying lockdown

UK police close case against Cummings over 'minor' lockdown breach

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, might be guilty of a “minor breach” of the legal regulation when he took a journey during the coronavirus stay-at-home lockdown last month, UK police concluded on Thursday.

Durham Constabulary found the aide had committed no legal offence when he drove over 400-km from his London home to his father’s farm in Durham, north-east England, at the end of March.

However, a second shorter trip to Barnard Castle on April 12, which 48-year-old Cummings said was to test his eyesight for an eventual longer drive back to London, may fall into the category of a breach but no retrospective action would be taken against him.

“Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing,” a Durham police statement said.

“In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person,” it said.

The force said that had an officer stopped Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted, no enforcement action such as a fine would have been imposed.

“Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”),” the police force added.

Downing Street said the UK PM considers the matter closed following the latest development.

"The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and legally given all the circumstances and he regards this issue as closed," a Downing Street spokesman said.

Johnson faced another barrage of hostile questions over his support for Cummings, his Chief Strategy Adviser during a hearing of the House of Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday.

He continued to defend his aide and asked people to move on from the episode, which has dominated the headlines since the weekend with around 40 MPs within his own Conservative Party calling for his aide to be sacked for driving during the lockdown.

“I totally understand public indignation, I totally understand that, but I do think that as I understand things, and I’ve said what I’ve said about the whole business, I think it would be much better if we could now move on and focus on the next steps,” Johnson told the influential parliamentary committee during the virtual hearing.

The issue has dominated the media headlines for days, with the BBC forced to issue a clarification over one of its programmes covering the public anger.

"As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality," the BBC said in reference to its ‘Newsnight’ show earlier this week, when presenter Emily Maitlis declared the whole country can see that Cummings had “broken the rules”.

The corporation said it should have been made clearer that the remarks were "a summary of the questions we would examine" about the UK PM’s aide.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox