A SENIOR Scottish legal expert has questioned the Metropolitan Police force’s decision to hand out questionnaires to Boris Johnson and others linked to the partygate scandal.
Dr Nick McKerrell, a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the method of investigation was “quite weird”.
The Prime Minister has seven days to avoid a fine by answering a legal questionnaire from Scotland Yard officers investigating whether he broke his own Covid laws.
According to reports, the Tory leader plans to argue he was working in his official Downing Street flat on the night of the alleged “Abba party” in November 2020.
Scotland Yard says the questionnaires ask for an “account and explanation of the recipient’s participation in an event” and have “formal legal status and must be answered truthfully”.
McKerrell told BBC Breakfast the use of a questionnaire in a criminal investigation is “unusual”.
He explained: “You and I, we have human rights in that context of the rate of fair trial and the right to legal representation, even when being questioned.
“So to doing a questionnaire is quite weird because you don’t have that interaction in the same way. So theoretically, you could get no information from the questionnaire, because one of the rights you’ve got when questioned by the police is the right to remain silent.
“So you could return a blank form, I think in a criminal investigation, and it would have weight behind it. So it’s an unusual thing to do in a criminal investigation.”
The lecturer said the questionnaire might be “filtering” in order for the police to establish where to conduct more direct interviews later. Another issue would be the length of time which had passed since the alleged offences and the fact the maximum penalty would be a fine, he said.
He added: “This causes this major problem, about how do you speak to someone over things that happened months ago, when the maximum offence is a fine? So that’s one of the issues behind it, but it won’t solve the issue, it I think will have to lead to some form of more direct investigation to get just to get the information.”
The Times reports that even if Johnson is fined he will not resign, in a move that would be likely to trigger Tory MPs to force a vote of confidence in his leadership.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis insisted on Sunday morning that his boss is “absolutely focused on the job in hand” despite having to answer police questions.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “The investigation is a matter for the police, I’m not going to put time frames on them, they’ve got to be able to do their job independently, autonomously and see that through.
“I have to say in the dealings I’ve had with the Prime Minister he’s absolutely focused on the job in hand, about what he’s doing for the British people.”
The Prime Minister will leave Westminster this week insisting he is “getting on with the job” while touting his staffing changes as helping to focus on his “levelling up” policy as he fights to stay in office.
No 10 said he is to start the week with a visit to a manufacturing site in Scotland before heading to an oncology centre tackling coronavirus backlogs in the north west of England.