Another Downing Street party? Every rule in place in May 2020 and how much fines cost

Boris Johnson slammed by Ed Miliband for Downing Street party

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Towards the end of 2021, several allegations came to light of illegal Christmas parties, which took place in 2020. The claims are currently being investigated by one of the Government’s most senior civil servants, Sue Gray, who could now potentially have an additional case to explore after Monday’s revelations. So, what rules could the alleged May party have breached?

On Monday, ITV News shared an email which invited Downing Street staff to a drinks party in the No 10 garden during the height of the first nationwide lockdown.

The email was sent by the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds to more than a hundred employees in No 10, encouraging them to “make the most of the lovely weather”.

At the time the party is alleged to have occurred – May 20, 2020 – a number of strict lockdown measures were in place to mitigate the spread of Covid.

So what rules were in place that the party could have breached?

Firstly, people could not leave their homes without a reasonable excuse.

This included work – where you were unable to work from home – exercise and getting items like food and medicine.

Gatherings in a public place of more than two people were prohibited under the law.

This was unless the people were all members of the same household or the gathering was “essential for work purposes”.

Government guidance at the time also stipulated people were allowed to spend time outdoors.

However, you could only meet one other person from a different household and you had to keep two metres apart.

According to ITV News, around 40 staff gathered in the No 10 garden on May 20, eating picnic food and drinking.

If this was the case, the party would have been a clear breach of lockdown rules in effect at the time.

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What were the penalties for breaching these rules?

The fine for attending a gathering which exceeded social limits in the first national lockdown was £60.

Had this been paid within 14 days of the fine being issued, the amount would have been reduced to £30.

However, if an individual opted to take their case to court and was still found to be in the wrong, the penalty was significantly higher.

Here, fines in excess of £800 were issued during the first lockdown, depending on the severity of each case.

Overall, it’s estimated thousands of UK residents were fined, prosecuted and left with criminal records as a result of breaching Covid rules.

Only when situations became too volatile – for example, when people surged en masse out of venues – did people escape punishment by the authorities.

The first nationwide lockdown in the UK began in March 2020.

By September 2020, most restrictions had been eased, but a second national lockdown was imposed two months later.

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