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Boris Johnson to be fined by U.K. police over Covid lockdown parties

The British prime minister, as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak, will be hit with a fixed penalty notice for breaking lockdown rules at the height of the country's Covid-19 outbreak.
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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will receive a police fine for breaching his own Covid-19 lockdown rules, Johnson's office said Tuesday.

The news marks the latest dramatic twist in the "partygate" scandal that has gripped the U.K. and led to demands for Johnson to resign.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement earlier Tuesday that its probe into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties held by politicians and staff at the center of British government had now led to more than 50 fines, called fixed penalty notices.

A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street, which acts as the prime minister’s personal office and his official residence, said Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak would both be issued with fines.

“The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak) have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices. We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife and a former senior staffer for the Conservative Party, told BBC News she will also be issued with a fine.

The reports of unauthorized lockdown parties dominated headlines in the British press for weeks, but had faded from public view after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The story is now firmly back in the spotlight ahead of local and regional elections taking place across the country next month.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, immediately called for Johnson to resign — a call the prime minister is likely to face from some of his own lawmakers in the hours and weeks ahead.

Johnson will be spared the wrath of Parliament for the time being, however. The House of Commons is suspended for its Easter break, although some are calling for it to be recalled immediately in the wake of the fines.

It is unclear which event Johnson and Sunak will receive fines for attending, although Johnson apologized in January for attending a "bring your own booze" party at Downing Street in May 2020, when gatherings were illegal. The size of the fines was also not disclosed.

An interim report by a senior civil servant in January, commissioned by Johnson himself, said that the parties were a “serious failure” and “hard to justify,” amid a furious public outcry.

Some people have been fined several thousand pounds and appeared in court for organizing or attending parties while the government's severe restrictions were in place. In most areas it was prohibited to visit relatives in hospital or in care homes — thousands died of Covid-19 without friends or family beside them.

Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, told the Press Association news agency in London that the fines were “indisputable” evidence that mass rule-breaking went on in government while families were “unable to be at their loved ones’ sides in their last moments.”

“If Boris Johnson had any decency he would do the right thing and resign immediately,” he said.

Johnson must pay the fine in 28 days but also has the right to appeal it. He must decide if the high-profile court appearance that would require is worth the trouble.