Is Sir Keir Starmer's Beergate gamble about to backfire?

GEOPENBAAR: Durham Police have handed out 100 back-dated lockdown fines prompting the questionis Sir Keir Starmer’s Beergate gamble about to backfire?

Pressure was last night mounting on Sir Keir Starmer over the ‘Beergate’ probe after The Mail on Sunday obtained details of fines already issued by Durham police over Covid breaches.

Officers have handed out fines for much smaller gatherings than the one attended by Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner last year – and 100 penalties were backdated.

Both Sir Keir and Ms Rayner have promised to resign if they are fined by police for drinking beer in an MP’s office in Durham in April 2021, when a ban on any indoor mixing of households was in place. It was reported that they had made the calculation that the vow was a no-risk gambit because the Durham force had a policy of not issuing fines retrospectively.

The Labour leader made the pledge – and then persuaded a reluctant Ms Rayner to follow suit – after this newspaper published a bombshell internal memo showing that the beer and curry evening had been pre-arranged. Witnesses have estimated that between 15 en 30 people were present. Sir Keir denies that any rules were broken.

Officers have handed out fines for much smaller gatherings than the one attended by Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner last year ¿ and 100 penalties were backdated

Officers have handed out fines for much smaller gatherings than the one attended by Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner last year – and 100 penalties were backdated

Tot by 20 people linked to the event are understood to have been sent questionnaires by the police earlier this month, meaning that a decision on fines could come within days.

A source familiar with the event in Labour MP Mary Foy’s office has claimed that the attendees were ‘not working’ and instead were ‘just getting p***ed’.

Durham Constabulary has now released details of its Covid fines showing that 90 of its fixed penalty notices were handed out over a week after breaches of regulations, while a dozen were issued over a month after breaches took place.

A Freedom of Information release shows that in the same month as ‘Beergate’, the force issued fixed penalty notices for relatively minor offences – including six fines for gatherings of just three people and one fine for a meeting of five.

The Freedom of Information release shows that Durham police also issued fines to parents for the behaviour of their children, applying fixed penalty notices in April 2021 to two parents who allowed their children to attend outdoor gatherings of nine to 15 people – even though the parents themselves did not attend.

The police issued three fines in April 2021 for an ‘ongoing house party’ with just three people in attendance.

The police records say: ‘Officers have attended address after reports of an ongoing house party. Upon police arrival two persons were located in the address who did not live there in addition to evidence of a party at the address.’

It was reported that they had made the calculation that the vow was a no-risk gambit because the Durham force had a policy of not issuing fines retrospectively. The Labour leader made the pledge ¿ and then persuaded a reluctant Ms Rayner to follow suit ¿ after this newspaper published a bombshell internal memo showing that the beer and curry evening had been pre-arranged

It was reported that they had made the calculation that the vow was a no-risk gambit because the Durham force had a policy of not issuing fines retrospectively. The Labour leader made the pledge – and then persuaded a reluctant Ms Rayner to follow suit – after this newspaper published a bombshell internal memo showing that the beer and curry evening had been pre-arranged

Another fine was issued that month for a gathering of five people, with the police report saying: ‘The offender was hosting a gathering at her home address consisting of four persons who do not live at her address and had no reasonable excuse why they were there’.

The force also issued a £10,000 retrospective fine to a woman who organised a memorial to her father-in-law – after he died from coronavirus.

Vicki Hutchinson received the penalty for organising a balloon release at a gathering of about 30 people on November 11, 2020, in a field opposite the church where her father’s funeral was due to take place. In a retrospective investigation, following a complaint, police analysed a livestream video of the event before issuing the fine.

It was reduced to £500, based on her ability to pay, when she attended Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on April 23 last year – a week before ‘Beergate’.

Responding to the new release, Tory MP Richard Holden said: ‘Sir Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner and Labour MPs have been living under the false comfort blanket that Durham don’t issues retrospective fines. These revelations show just how untrue that is.

‘People whose stories evolve to suit facts as they emerge are rarely reliable.

‘Starmer’s line has changed time after time, as each assertion he has made has been proved to be untrue.Justice must be done and be seen to be done. That everyone is equal before the law is fundamental. That must include the Labour leader, QC, and former DPP, Sir Keir Starmer – and his fellow revellers.’

Mr Holden added: ‘If Starmer was so confident in his position he wouldn’t have spent the best part of a month filling out his questionnaire with the assistance of expert external legal counsel’.

The day after The Mail on Sunday published a secret Labour Party document which called into serious question his version of events over ‘Beergate’, Sir Keir pledge to resign if fined.

An operational note drawn up ahead of Sir Keir’s notorious visit revealed the gathering had been planned in advance and appeared to contradict his claim that he had returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.

After the entry recording the ‘dinner in Miners Hall’ – which includes a note to ‘arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge’, a local curry house – the document simply said: ‘End of visit.’

The memo also further undermined Labour’s claims that it made ‘an honest mistake’ when it denied that deputy leader Ms Rayner was at the event: it lists ‘AR’ alongside ‘KS’ as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.

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