Dominic Cummings 'might have broken lockdown rules' - police
May. 28, 2020
The PM's top aide Dominic Cummings might have broken lockdown rules, but it would have been a "minor breach", say Durham Police.
His journey from London to Durham was within the law, the force said.
His later trip to Barnard Castle "might have warranted a police intervention," the force added, but it would not be taken any action now.
Downing Street said the PM now "regards this issue as closed" - but Labour and the SNP still want Mr Cummings sacked.
Mr Cummings has insisted he acted "reasonably" and within the law over his 260-mile journey from London to Durham to isolate with his wife, as well as the 50-mile round-trip to Barnard Castle 15 days later.
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About 40 Tory MPs called for Mr Cummings to resign or be fired for undermining the government's lockdown message.
But the prime minister said on Wednesday that it was time to "move on" from the row.
Mr Cummings said he had made the trip to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, also with his wife and child, to test his eyesight before embarking on the longer journey back to London.
In its statement, Durham Police said it regarded the likely breach of lockdown rules at Barnard Castle as minor because there was "no apparent breach of social distancing".
"Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis.
"Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken."
The force said it would not be taking retrospective action against Mr Cummings since this would amount to "treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public."
On the issue of whether it was an offence for Mr Cummings to drive himself and his family from London to Durham to isolate on his family's farm, Durham Police said it did "not consider an offence was committed".
Reports that Mr Cummings was seen in Durham on 19 April, suggesting a second trip from London, could not be support by evidence, the police statement added.
Mr Cummings has denied he was in Durham on that date.
By Jonathan Blake, BBC News political correspondent
The statement from Durham police isn't quite the gotcha moment critics of Dominic Cummings may have been hoping for.
Having qualified their judgement that he "might" have broken the rules, the adviser's allies can claim it is inconclusive.
Political opponents have seized on the statement as another reason for Mr Cummings to go - but Conservatives have been quieter.
Given Number 10's view that the prime minister considers this the end of the matter, Tory MPs who'd called for the advisor to resign might well be resigned to the fact he's staying put.
But with important announcements looming about the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, this latest twist in the tale has led to another day of headlines Downing Street doesn't want.
Reacting to the police statement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said by not dealing with Mr Cummings "in a strong way" Boris Johnson had "showed himself to be weak".
"But more importantly, what I'm worried about is that people might think well if Cummings doesn't have to abide by the rules, why do I have to?" He said.
"Then you're on a slippery slope. The real risk here is that we lose control of the rules."
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson "has no choice but to remove him from post".
"This is now a matter of the prime minister's own integrity - and his overriding responsibility to protect public health and trust in his government," Mr Blackford said.
And acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, said the "only way" the prime minister can move on from the controversy "would be for him to ask for Dominic Cumming's resignation".
He added: "The longer Dominic Cumming stays in post, the more people will feel that there is one rule for him and one for everyone else, seriously threatening public health. Unless he resigns, the sacrifices everyone has made are at risk of being entirely undermined."
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The prime minister has had a full account from Dominic Cummings, and accepted that.
"The whole government is now focused on helping deliver the country through the coronavirus challenge, easing the restrictions in the roadmap that we sent out and doing so in a safe and responsible way."
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Mr Cummings' decision in March to drive from his London home to his parents' farm in County Durham with his wife - who had coronavirus symptoms - and his son has dominated the headlines since the story broke on Friday night.
The PM's chief adviser gave a news conference on Monday, explaining that he decided to make the trip because he felt it would be better to self-isolate in a place where he had options for childcare if required.
He has received the continued support of the prime minister, who said that his aide had acted legally and with integrity.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.
"The prime minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and legally given all the circumstances and he regards this issue as closed."