Lawyers aren’t great believers. We spend our lives unravelling
the carefully constructed lies of others. And it makes the most terrible
cynics of even the sweetest natured of us. But there are a few things we do
believe in - and are prepared to fight for. And one of them is the idea that the
law is just and fair.
That’s why, for so much of the legal profession, it was
agonising to watch the Met ignore evidence of criminality at Number 10 and
Number 11. We knew others had been fined for breaking the lockdown rules. We
knew the terrible sacrifices that so many families had made - people who had
watched their mothers die over a videolink and then been unable to go to
their funerals. And we had seen the Queen mourning her husband, alone. Whilst
at Downing Street they partied.
How could it be right not to investigate? How could the public
continue to believe that there was one law that applied to everyone when all
the evidence suggested the contrary? What would that mean for the rule of
law? So we commissioned legal advice from top policing barrister Danny
Friedman QC and leading authority on Covid regulations Adam Wagner on
whether, by refusing to investigate, the Met was itself breaking the
We didn’t just commission that advice - we published it, warts
and all. That’s a remarkable thing to do if you want to litigate because it
means that you are telling the other side about all the weaknesses in your
case. But we did it because we believed it was so important that the Met act.
We wanted them to investigate without us needing to sue them. We wanted
people to believe that the Met would apply the law, without fear or favour.
Still, they refused to investigate. And the reasons they gave
were totally remarkable. The Met said that: “Downing Street… have already
stated that Covid rules were followed.” And they said that because the
Cabinet Office was looking into possible breaches there was no need for the
Met to investigate as well.
These are extraordinary arguments. They amounted to a
different set of rules for the powerful - a kind of institutional
cap-doffing. Can you imagine an officer deciding not to investigate you
because you assured him you hadn’t committed a crime? Or because you told him
you had appointed a subordinate to look into the matter and so there was no
need to bother?
Of course, you can’t. And it felt to us at Good Law Project
like something bigger and more important than even the Prime Minister’s
possible criminality was at stake. Might the public lose all faith in the law
because what they could see looked very much like a Prime Minister who was
above it? And a police force that was too scared to act?
So on 17 January 2022, we sued the Met. We said, publicly,
that we were very confident about the outcome. Because we could not believe
that a judge would not see things as we did, that the stance the Met was
adopting was profoundly damaging to public trust in the law. And a week
later, on 25 January, Cressida Dick u-turned and announced a criminal
investigation into the Downing Street parties.
Today’s announcement that the Prime Minister and Chancellor
broke the lockdown laws - the laws they enacted and expected others to obey -
is the culmination of her investigation, an investigation we sued for her to
Whatever you think of this Prime Minister, today is an
important day. In 1733, Dr Thomas Fuller wrote, “Be you ever so high, the law
is above you.” What today shows is that, almost three hundred years later,
his words remain true.
Jo Maugham - Good Law Project
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