British police are fining 20 people over parties held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff during coronavirus lockdowns, and say that more people could face penalties.
The Metropolitan Police force said Tuesday it wouldn't identify the recipients of the fixed penalty notices, though Johnson's office said it would reveal if he gets one.
Opponents, and some members of the governing Conservative Party, have said that Johnson should resign if he is issued a fine for breaking rules he imposed on the rest of the country during the pandemic.
Dozens of politicians and officials have been investigated over allegations that the government flouted its own pandemic restrictions. Police sent questionnaires to more than 100 people, including the prime minister, and interviewed witnesses as part of the investigation.
Confirming that it had authorized 20 fines, the police force said officers were working through a "significant amount of investigative material" and more people could face penalties later.
The "partygate" scandal had left Johnson’s tenure precarious before Russia launched a war in Ukraine more than a month ago that gave Britain’s politicians more urgent priorities.
Johnson’s grip on power was shaken by public anger over revelations that his staff held "bring your own booze" office parties, birthday celebrations and "wine time Fridays" in 2020 and 2021 while millions in Britain were barred from meeting with friends and family because of his government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, but he is alleged to have been at several of the dozen events in his 10 Downing St. office and other government buildings that are being investigated by the police. He has acknowledged attending a "bring your own booze" party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020 during the first lockdown, but insisted he believed it would be a work event.
In January, civil servant Sue Gray published a report into some of the gatherings, the ones not under criminal investigation. She said "failures of leadership and judgment" in the Johnson's government allowed events to occur that should not have happened.
Johnson spokesman Max Blain declined to say whether the prime minister would quit if he is fined.
"It’s a hypothetical situation," he said.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the party revelations were "a slap in the face" to millions who had followed the national coronavirus restrictions.
"The culture is set from the very top," she said. "The buck stops with the prime minister, who spent months lying to the British public, which is why he has got to go."
Hannah Brady, a spokeswoman for the group COVID-1919 Bereaved Families for Justice, said Johnson "should have resigned months ago over this."
"By dragging it out longer, all he is doing is pouring more salt on the wounds of those who have already suffered so much," she said.