The senior police officer leading the investigation into alleged lockdown-breaking gatherings at Downing Street was previously embroiled in a row over the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police’s lead for Covid-19, has been put in charge of investigating the alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street and Whitehall.
The lead investigator, who joined the Metropolitan Police Service in 1993, was embroiled in a row over the vigil held for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common last year after officers were seen using heavy-handed tactics on mourners.
Just months later she rejected claims that the Met’s operation had ‘failed’ after crowds of ticketless football fans stormed the Wembley Stadium during the Euro 2020 tournament.
Her comments came after the Met were accused of failing to install a ring of steel around Wembley and prevent a violent element from gaining access to the stadium.
DAC Connors was also the officer in charge when officers were filmed raving with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at a rave at Oxford Circus, London, in 2019.
Today a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: ‘The Special Enquiry Team will lead the investigations. DAC Jane Connors will oversee the investigation in her role as the Met’s lead officer for Covid.’
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, the Metropolitan Police’s lead for Covid-19, has been put in charge of investigating the alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street
The announcement comes as Scotland Yard chief Dame Cressida Dick announced that the force would probe the alleged lockdown breaches after being provided evidence by Sue Gray’s civil service inquiry.
DAC Connors began working in the east London boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest before transferring to Westminster to run proactive crime teams, according to a profile for charity Joining Against Cancer in Kids, of which she is a trustee.
She also spent time in charge of call centres managing the Met’s 101 and 999 calls, the charity website said.
The profile says she was promoted to the rank of commander in 2018, and by 2020 was in charge of violence reduction.
By late 2021 she had attained her current rank.
The officer will now oversee the Metropolitan Police’s special inquiry team in their investigation into alleged rule-breaking Downing Street parties.
The team has been in existence in a number of forms for about 20 years and carries out sensitive and confidential inquiries into matters relating to high profile figures, including those in politics.
It was originally a unit within the Economic and Serious Crime Command that dealt with fraud and corruption offences in the public sector.
But in 2013, following restructuring within the Met, the unit was transferred to the Homicide and Major Command.
Part of its role is to investigate allegations of offences committed by those in public office or on the parliamentary estate.
In the past, the special inquiry team investigated allegations of bribery, perjury, theft, misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice, electoral fraud and malpractice, blackmail, harassment, malicious communications and offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Last year the lead investigator was embroiled in a row over the vigil that was held for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common.
Police faced heavy criticism and the Met’s Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was under pressure to resign after officers were seen pinning people to the ground and using heavy-handed tactics.
Footage showed officers yelling ‘move back’ as they shoved protesters away as other demonstrators were hauled off by police.
Crowds of mourners started chanting ‘arrest your own’ and ‘shame on you’ as the vigil quickly turned violent.
Following the scenes, DAC Connors said while she understood why ‘people need to express their views’ the force had to ‘take some enforcement action as the evening progressed’.
She said: ‘Whilst I understand why people feel the need to express their views at this time, we must remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and that there is the constant risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
‘Our officers were once again out on the streets, with the primary role of trying to ensure people’s safety during this health crisis.
‘Despite many people adhering to officers’ instructions to leave the area and go home, we had to take some enforcement action as the evening progressed.’
Police officers stand guard as people place flowers and tributes on the floor during a vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common
The police force were criticised last year after members of the force were seen using heavy-handed tactics with people at the vigil
Police officers at the scene at Wembley Stadium in July last year after thousands tried to storm into the stadium
Her comments came as police federation chief Ken Marsh defended the actions of officers at the vigil and claimed the event had been ‘hijacked’ by Antifa, Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion protesters.
In July last year the deputy assistant commissioner firmly rejected claims that the Met’s operation had ‘failed’ after crowds of football fans stormed the Wembley Stadium during the Euros.
Responding to the criticism she said: ‘I want to praise the quick response by police commanders and those brave officers who confronted these subsequent scenes of disorder and violence.
‘I am in no doubt that their swift action prevented any further escalation.
‘Frustratingly, 19 of our officers were injured during the course of Sunday’s policing operation when confronting volatile crowds.
‘I do not accept that the policing operation failed and I standby the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met’s public order commanders.
‘Without their immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned.’
The senior officer went on to say that she ‘shared the nation’s anger’ at the behaviour witnessed outside the stadium and reiterated her ‘commitment to identifying those responsible’.
DAC Connors added: ‘Throughout the course of the day, police officers witnessed disgraceful behaviour both in central London and at Wembley.
‘I share the nation’s anger at this behaviour. I want to reiterate the Met’s commitment to identifying those responsible for the scenes both in Wembley and in central London, their actions will have consequences.’
The officer’s comments came as police, security staff and the FA came under fire after thousands of fans were filmed attempting to storm the national stadium ahead of England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.
DAC Connors was also the officer in charge when officers were filmed raving with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at a rave at Oxford Circus in 2019.
Speaking at the time DAC Connors said: ‘I’m disappointed by the video and the unacceptable behaviour of the officers in it.
‘We expect our officers to engage with protestors but clearly their actions fall short of the tone of the policing operation at a time when people are frustrated at the actions of the protestors.
‘We will be reminding officers of their responsibilities and expectations in policing this operation – however the majority of officers have been working long hours and I am grateful to them for their continued commitment.’
Riot police stand guard as hundreds of football fans stand outside the Wembley Stadium during the Euros
Last year two police officers were filmed dance with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at a rave at Oxford Circus in London
Earlier today the PM’s spokesman insisted he would ‘cooperate fully’ if required to be interviewed about allegations of lockdown-breaking gatherings at No10.
The PM has denied breaking the law, but the probe has reached a new level, with staff facing questions from police rather than officials.
It had initially appeared Ms Gray’s scrutiny would be put on hold in what would have been a respite for Mr Johnson.
However, following hours of wrangling the Cabinet Office suggested that parts of the report not being looked at by police could soon be released.
And it has now emerged that the results could be published in full soon, after the Met made clear it had no objection.
Despite a mounting Tory revolt, a slew of MPs gave noisy support to the premier in the chamber today, branding the accusations ‘vexatious’ and asking why Keir Starmer was not under investigation.
During a hearing at the London Assembly, Dame Cressida pointed out that under guidelines police have not examined historical allegations of lockdown breaches unless there is clear evidence and a lack of a defence.
‘We have a long-established and effective working relationship with the Cabinet Office, who have an investigative capability,’ she said.
‘As you well know they have been carrying out an investigation over the last few weeks.
‘What I can tell you this morning is that as a result of the information provided by the Cabinet Office inquiry team and, secondly, my officers’ own assessment, I can confirm that the Met is now investigating a number of events that took place at Downing Street and Whitehall in the last two years in relation to potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.’
Lockdown law: What rules and penalties were in force when Boris had his birthday party at No10?
Boris Johnson celebrated his 56th birthday with a party in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street on June 19, 2020.
It is alleged that as many as 30 people were in attendance.
These are the Covid rules which were in place at the time:
– England was coming out of the first national lockdown, which had been imposed in March.
– Groups of up to six people were able to meet outdoors in England from Monday June 1, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, provided strict social distancing guidelines were followed.
– People from different households were told to stay two metres apart and not to spend time inside others’ homes other than to get to the garden or use the toilet.
– Indoor gatherings remained against the law, but there were exemptions ‘if reasonably necessary’ for work purposes.
The Government’s original Covid regulations which were put in place in March 2020 gave the police powers to hand out fixed penalty notices for breaches of the rules.
Initially, these fines were worth £60 or £30 if paid within 14 days.
However, the value of the fines increased in England from £60 to £100 on May 13, 2020, lowering to £50 if paid within two weeks.
Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister and Covid rules expert, tweeted today that ‘Fixed Penalty Notices are an alternative to prosecution – so generally the police gave FPNs first and if they weren’t paid they could proceed to prosecution’.
He added: ‘In this case it will almost certainly be FPNs rather than prosecution.’