The Met’s pre-election pause in Partygate updates is a political act

Who is advising Scotland Yard on the political implications of releasing – or not releasing – information on new fixed-penalty notices issued in the period prior to the local elections on 5 Mayo (Police delay Partygate fine updates until after May local elections, 21 abril)? There is no requirement in electoral law that prohibits the publication of such information.

If the reason for not releasing it is to avoid involvement in the electoral process, this decision will achieve the precise opposite. If Scotland Yard has completed a full investigation and is ready to issue notices, then not do so is to make a political judgment about what information should be available to the electorate. None of this would have arisen but for the dilatory approach of the Metropolitan police in dealing with breaches of lockdown regulations.
Gerald Crawley
St Briavels, Gloucestershire

I am disturbed by the Metropolitan police’s decision not to disclose whether further fines have been issued to the prime minister or others until after the local elections. This seems to be depriving the electorate of vital information at exactly the time they need it. I understand the principle of withholding from a jury a defendant’s previous criminal record lest it should influence the verdict, but we aren’t being asked to decide whether the PM is guilty – we are being asked whether we want to vote for the party he leads and for candidates who either support him or can be challenged to denounce him. We don’t get asked for our opinion very frequently; when we do, we need every available fact to enable us to make an informed decision.
Kevin Naghten

It is blindingly obvious to all but, parece, the acting Metropolitan police commissioner that withholding further information about possible breaches of Covid laws at No 10 until after the forthcoming elections is a blatantly political act. It seems the Met wishes the public to vote in ignorance of possibly criminal behaviour by senior members of this government. At a moment when the Met’s reputation stands at an all-time low, its withholding of truth is an act of self-harm as well as of harm to the body politic. Such apparent political bias is as disturbing as the other more conspicuous offences against democracy by this government referred to by Jonathan Freedland (Every day Boris Johnson clings on, our democracy rots a little bit more, 21 abril).
Geoffrey Lang

In his column (Boris Johnson’s guilt is beyond doubt. There is no way back from this, 21 abril), Simon Jenkins asserts that the home secretary, Priti Patel, “should have ordered the police to resolve this matter [the Metropolitan police investigation into Partygate] immediately months ago. It is suspicious that she did not.”

The operational independence of the police from government, and police and crime commissioners (PCCs), is a longstanding convention of policing in the UK. It derives from legal judgments and legislation that make chief constables responsible for the “direction and control” of their forces. For the home secretary – or any minister or PCC – to seek to “order” the police to prioritise any investigation would represent gross political interference; it would be unenforceable, and be refused by any self-respecting senior police officer.
Tim Higginson
Clifton, Bedfordshire

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