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What does this mean for Boris now?

Over 50 fixed penalty notices (FPN) have now been issued, as part of the Met Polices’ investigation into lockdown-breaking Downing Street parties. It has been revealed this week that both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are amongst MP’s who have been issued with a FPN.

What is a fixed penalty notice?

A fixed penalty notice is a form of punishment available to the police for certain criminal offences, as an alternative to prosecution. One of these offences is for breach of lockdown restrictions. This offence involves a person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a requirement as set out by The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

An individual issued with an FPN has 28 days to either pay the fine or appeal it. If an individual does not accept that they have committed the offence in question and chooses to appeal it, the matter gets referred to court. However, both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak have accepted the notices and paid their fines accordingly.

Is a FPN a criminal conviction?

Acceptance of a FPN is not the same as receiving a criminal conviction in Court and as such, neither Mr Johnson or Mr Sunak will have these matters appear on their criminal record. However, acceptance of the FPN may have other consequences on their careers.

Is Boris Johnson guilty?

By accepting the FPN both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak have accepted guilt to the offence. This makes Boris Johnson the first UK prime minister to have (officially been found to have) broken the law whilst in office. The prime minister has repeatedly told parliament that he was not aware of any breaches of lockdown rules at number 10. This is contrary to the police’s findings in the course of their investigations and, given his acceptance of the FPN, Mr Johnson now accepts that he had breached lockdown rules.

It is not a criminal offence for MP’s to mislead parliament. It was debated in parliament in January 2021 whether legislation to this effect should be introduced, but the proposal was rejected. However, it is a breach of the ministerial code, of which both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak are signatories. Part 1.3.c of the code reads that;

it is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister

Should Boris Jonson resign?

The question therefore remains whether both should offer their resignations. Whilst there is no legal requirement for them to do so, they will face pressure from opposing parties and may face a vote of no confidence being commenced by the conservative party, triggering a leadership challenge.

Contact our criminal defence team

If you have been issued with a fixed penalty notice and would like advice on whether you had a reasonable excuse, contact our criminal law specialists on 0191 232 9547.

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