Strict police guidelines on lockdown violations ‘raise Sir Keir Starmer’s risk of being fined for Beergate’
- Labor fears Sir Keir Starmer could be fined for alleged ‘Beergate’ violation
- A FOI to Durham Police Department made it clear they had changed their Covid guidelines
- It was updated with a stricter policy after Dominic Cummings Barnard Castle trip
- Which means Starmer can get the same kind of FPN that Boris Johnson received
Labor fears that Sir Keir Starmer could be fined for his alleged ‘Beergate’ Covid breach in April 2021 grew last night after Durham police confirmed they were following strict national guidelines for lockdown violations
Some Starmer allies have assumed he will escape punishment because the Durham Forces have decided not to fine Dominic Cummings retroactively for his trip to Barnard Castle in 2020.
But in a new Freedom of Information (FOI) release, police made it clear that they had followed revised guidelines in force at the time of the alleged incident involving Sir Keir, his deputy Angela Rayner and other Labor colleagues.
National Police Chiefs’ Council guidelines were tightened in early 2021 and led to an increase in Covid-related fixed fines. More than 23,000 people were prosecuted last year, compared to just over 4,000 in 2020.
Last night Labor MPs admitted the revelation will raise concerns that Sir Keir, who has vowed to quit if he is fined, could receive the same kind of FPN Boris Johnson received for attending his birthday party at number 10 in June 2020.
Sir Keir Starmer was filmed last April sipping beer from a drunken curry in Durham – an event now under investigation by Durham police for allegedly breaking Covid rules
A high-ranking Labor MP even privately claimed that some colleagues would not be unhappy if Sir Keir were fined over making way for a ‘more charismatic’ leader.
Sir Keir’s allies rejected that yesterday, claiming he had broken no rules during the interruption of the local election campaign. They also claimed it was no secret that Durham Police were following national guidelines.
But last week it emerged that police sent Sir Keir and Ms Rayner, who also promised to resign if they were fined, ‘incredibly comprehensive’ questionnaires about the alleged ‘beer and curry’ meeting at the Durham MP’s office. Mary Foy.
Sir Keir was pictured at the Platinum Jubilee service for the Queen in London
Last night, Tory MP Richard Holden – who made the FOI request – said the response from the Durham Police Department seemed to show that whatever their final decision might be, it would not be based on a lenient local policy on ex-post fines. Instead, the only relevant guidance would be the updated national advice for 2021.
Mr Holden said: “This may disappoint Labor supporters, but in this response, Durham Constabulary seems to be telling me that the only relevant guideline is the updated National Police Advice for 2021.
‘That guidance turned out to lead to much tougher enforcement against Covid crimes.’
Tory MP Richard Holden (pictured) said Durham Police’s response to an FOI request appeared to show that whatever their final decision might be, it would not be based on a lenient local policy on ex-post fines.
However, police sources said that regardless of national guidelines, each force would use its discretion.
Durham Police, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, initially closed an investigation into the Beergate incident and said “no criminal offense has been established”. But in early May, police revealed they were opening an investigation ‘after receiving important new information’
Last night, a spokesman for Sir Keir said the event in Durham had not broken any Covid rules.