A DEPUTY police crime commissioner has said he expects the Keir Starmer "beergate" investigation to lead to discussions over police policy.

Nigel Bryson, Durham's deputy police and crime commissioner (DPCC), was questioned on the matter by two Conservative councillors.

At a Darlington Borough Council meeting, Councillor David Willis referred to the Metropolitan Police.

That force has issued more than 100 fines in its investigation into possible lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street and across Whitehall following the "partygate" scandal.

Cllr Willis said Durham Police previously would not give retrospective fixed penalities for breaching Covid restrictions at the time of Dominic Cummings' infamous trip to Barnard Castle as it would be unfair to treat him differently.

The Metropolitan Police, he said, took a different view on "high profile figures" breaching regulations.

He asked: "Which was the response that was wrong?

"Is this our fixed policy for police that they will not issue retrospective fixed penalities or will they review this, and who will decide this and how will they account for this decision?"

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Mr Bryson said it was the Chief Constable's operational responsibility.

He said there was an investigation on the basis of new evidence relating to "a high-profile politician from the Labour Party".

"So it is their view that they will do some investigation but I don't believe it will move to an overall policy," added Mr Bryson.

"They've been looking at things that's been drawn to their attention and at this stage it's an operational issue.

"We'll have to wait until they've done their investigation. Once the investigation is concluded and the results are public, then it can be an issue of whether we think there was an inconsistency of policy or an inconsistency of approach.

"I'm pretty sure that once that's investigation's completed it will lead to some discussions."

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Cllr Rachel Mills referred to Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Joy Allen's membership of the Labour Party and asked how the PCC would hold Chief Constable and the force to account regarding the investigation into Keir Starmer.

The councillor and retired police officer said: "The PCC is a politically elected position.

"My concern is... if you're of the same party as the person that your force is investigating, you are undoubtedly compromised and cannot be effective in that role and hold the police accountable for their investigation."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Rachel Mills. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.Cllr Rachel Mills. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

Mr Bryson said: "The commissioner cannot direct operations of the police because the Chief Constable is responsible for the operational side of policing.

"And until we get some kind of result we're not in a position, whoever it is, to be able to pre-judge.

"If we intervene, that will be seen as political interference with the process.

"So we have to go through the process and then see what the investigation comes out with.

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"It's not up to the Commissioner to interfere with the investigation.

"Whenever the investigation comes out, we will be looking at whether their approach across the board has been consistent, whether there needs to be any change in policy.

"But we can't get there until that investigation is completed.

"I understand what it looks like... but that's the system.

"We're all, I think, waiting for the results of that investigation. And then we'll see what we need to do."


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