UK PM, staff questioned under caution by police over Partygate: Report

British PM Boris Johnson's office confirmed that he had received the police questionnaire and that he had already returned the form. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British police investigating a dozen gatherings on government grounds that might have broken coronavirus rules told recipients, who include Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that they are being questioned under caution, according to a copy of the document obtained by ITV News.

London's Metropolitan Police earlier this month said it had sent questionnaires to more than 50 people, with Mr Johnson's office confirming the prime minister was among them. He has already returned his form.

"You may have breached Covid-19 regulations," the police said in a cover letter to the form obtained and issued in an emailed statement by ITV.

"It is our intention to establish the details of the alleged breach and provide you with the opportunity to co-operate with the police in the form of a written statement under caution."

The probe would mark the first time a sitting prime minister has been questioned under police caution, according to ITV.

That adds to pressure on Mr Johnson after more than a dozen of his own Conservative Party lawmakers called for him to quit or said they'd lost confidence in him, while others said they would reserve judgment until the outcome of the police investigation.

Mr Johnson's office said in a statement that it "will not be commenting further while the investigation is ongoing".

The cover letter gives recipients three options: To remain silent and answer no questions, to answer the attached written questions, or to provide a prepared statement in their own words.

ITV said questions asked included timing of the gathering they attended, how many other people were there, and its purpose.

The police also asked whether recipients know if any "lawful exception" or "reasonable excuse" applied to the event.

The so-called Partygate scandal has resonated with the British public because of the perception that officials in Mr Johnson's administration partied while pandemic rules prevented social gatherings.

Mr Johnson himself attended events including one in the garden of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's residence, which he says he thought was for work purposes.

There was also a surprise gathering to mark his birthday, and he appeared alongside officials for a Christmas quiz on Zoom.

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