UK police face fresh calls to investigative Cummings’s travel during lockdown
Two people who claim to have seen PM’s adviser on April 19th accuse force of not fully investigating claims
Dominic Cummings’s trip to Durham at the height of lockdown while suffering from Covid-19 drastically undermined public trust in the UK gvernment’s handling of the pandemic, according to new research. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
The UK’s Metropolitan (Met) police is facing fresh calls to investigate Dominic Cummings’s decision to leave London for Durham at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The calls come after the Guardian and the Daily Mirror revealed that Dave and Clare Edwards, two of four people who claim to have seen Mr Cummings on April 19th, have complained to the police watchdog, accusing the Durham force of not fully investigating their claims. Mr Cummings is British prime minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser.
Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the public accounts committee, said: “There is also more evidence now that the police should look into, Durham police and, given the alleged travel from London, the Met police too.”
Under questioning from Ms Hillier at the liaison committee in May, Mr Johnson said he had seen evidence that proves his chief adviser did not make a second trip to Durham in April, as four witness have now claimed. But he refused to agree to release it to the cabinet secretary for independent verification.
Mr Cummings previously claimed that an allegation that he was in Durham on April 19th was false and that he had evidence to prove he was in London that day. On Wednesday Downing Street said it considers the matter closed.
Ms Hillier said: “If the PM just publishes the evidence he’s seen there would be no need for police time to be spent on this - the PM should put truth and public trust first and publish what he’s seen.”
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “The public have a right to know whether the prime minister’s chief adviser made a second lockdown-breaching trip to Durham, and it is surely therefore only right that this evidence is produced.”
She added: “If Dominic Cummings was in London during both the morning and afternoon of the 19th April, and not in Durham as has been alleged, I’m sure that the prime minister will welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.”
The London assembly has also called on the Met to investigate Mr Cummings.
A detective-led inquiry in Durham found Mr Cummings probably breached health protection rules by travelling to Barnard Castle on April 12th, but it made no finding on his decision to leave London because the three-day investigation was confined to County Durham.
Unmesh Desai, the Labour assembly member who chairs city hall’s police and crime committee, said that new allegations “have come to light about Dominic Cummings’s movements during the lockdown which raise a number of unresolved issues. As Durham police is itself the subject of criticism and complaints, it is only logical that Cummings’s own police force, the Met, now investigates this matter, and answers legitimate questions from the public.”
One of the other witnesses who originally complained to Durham police about seeing Mr Cummings on his first trip to the north-east lockdown, has also called on the Met to investigate.
The witness, who does not wish to be named, has written to Met commissioner Cressida Dick, saying there were a number of unanswered questions about why Cummings left his home when his wife was sick with suspected coronavirus. The witness said: “Durham police seem to have left all these questions open - if they were fully investigated it would help restore public confidence in officials at a time when compliance with the regulations is still critical.”
On Friday night, the force said: “As a matter of course the Metropolitan police service is not investigating Covid guidance-related issues retrospectively.”
Mr Afzal said the latest claims about Mr Cummings’s movements underlined the need for a thorough investigation. He said: “My legal team and I have been sighted on these allegations and have no reason to disbelieve the clear, coherent and corroborative accounts from these witnesses. Mr Cummings stated that he was not in Durham at any time on the 19th, he and these witnesses cannot both be right. The failure of the police to investigate remains very disappointing given the public interest and concern.”
Joy Allen, Labour’s candidate to become Durham’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) next year, has urged the force to check number plate data on Mr Cummings’s movements on April 19th.
She said: “Obviously PCCs can’t get involved in operational matters but, if I was Clare and Dave Edwards’s elected representative I would wholeheartedly support their request to review ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] data for that weekend to settle the matter once and for all.”–The Guardian