The police chief who handled the investigation into Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham is facing a possible inquiry after a furious backlash from the public, according to reports.
Officers said that Mr Cummings might have breached lockdown when he drove to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday, but his 260-mile journey to the north east of England did not break the rules.
Durham Police received a number of complaints from Britons angry over the handling of the investigation.
A portion of the complaints are understood to have been made against Chief Constable Jo Farrell, The Telegraph reported.
Durham Police received a number of complaints from Britons angry over the handling of the investigation into Dominic Cummings. A portion of the complaints are understood to have been made against Durham Police’s Chief Constable Jo Farrell, pictured
Dominic Cummings, top aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at the back of Downing Street after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown, May 29
The £157,000-a-year police chief whose force found itself at the centre of the Dominic Cummings row
Jo Farrell was appointed chief constable of Durham Constabulary last June, becoming the first woman ever to hold the key position in the force’s 180-year history.
During her time at Northumbria Police she was involved with the manhunt for killer Raoul Moat in 2010, and was in command on the night he called the force to say he was hunting for police.
Her appointment as Durham chief capped an impressive rise up the ranks during a career with the police which began nearly 30 years ago when she joined Cambridgeshire Police in 1991 aged 22 as a constable.
Mrs Farrell, whose hobbies include cooking and keeping fit, is married to a retired police officer and has two stepsons and a daughter.
The £156,958-a-year chief was born on the Wirral in Merseyside before moving to Cambridgeshire aged 15 when her father relocated with his job, and then she completing a degree in business at Sheffield Polytechnic.
Mrs Farrell had wanted to join the police since childhood and her first role was a five-year stint on the beat in Cambridge city centre.
Then in 2002 she joined Northumbria Police as a chief inspector before being promoted to assistant chief constable.
In 2016 Mrs Farrell joined Durham Constabulary and took charge of the policing for various high-profile events before her appointment as chief constable, taking over from Mike Barton after his seven-year stint.
Speaking last year, she said: ‘I was 22 when I joined the police and I absolutely loved it. Although I don’t have any family connection with the police, I had always wanted to join and I was so proud when I first became an officer.
‘As I tell all our new recruits, when we get it right, we can have such a positive impact on people’s lives – the difference that we can make is phenomenal’.
She also works on behalf of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in information management and criminal justice file quality.
The Force’s professional standards department will assess the complaints before a decision is made on whether the matter should be taken further.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will also be informed, but no referrals have yet been made, reports indicate.
A Durham Constabulary spokesman said there is ‘currently’ no investigation into the Force’s handling of the inquiry.
It is not yet clear whether the complaints are related to anger over the police’s decision to investigate Mr Cummings, or anger over the probe’s results.
It is understood that roughly 10 complaints have been received in total.
Acting police and crime commissioner Steve White, who last week urged Ms Farrell to investigate Mr Cummings, also received a number of complaints.
Durham’s police and crime panel are now set to consider the complaints against Mr White – serving as temporary PCC after the death of his predecessor, Ron Hogg.
The force said on Thursday that Mr Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle ‘might have’ been in ‘minor breach’ of the regulations.
The force added that if an officer had stopped Mr Cummings on his journey they would have provided ‘advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis’.
Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, ‘no enforcement action would have been taken’.
But Durham Police said they did not consider Mr Cummings self-isolating at his family’s farm a breach of the guidelines, and no further action would be taken.
In a statement the force said: ‘In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating
‘Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.’
A No10 spokesman said the Prime Minister now considers this matter closed after Durham Police decided not to pursue legal action.
They added: ‘The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.
‘The Prime Minister has said he believes Mr Cummings behaved reasonably and legally given all the circumstances and he regards this issue as closed.’
The top aide claims he used the journey on his wife’s birthday to check his vision had recovered enough to drive back to London after suffering suspected Covid-19.
Dominic Cummings journey to Barnard Castle, pictured, may have constituted a ‘minor’ breach of lockdown, according to Durham Police
He had already travelled 260 miles from the capital to the North East two weeks before to stay at his parents’ farm.
Road police officers warned it was a bad idea to take to the road with impaired vision in the wake of the Cummings case.
Another police chief accused the UK government of ‘rushing’ to announce the relaxation of lockdown measures today, saying it may have been a political move to help ministers facing pressure after the fallout from Cummings’ actions.
Northumbria’s Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said the government’s pre-announcement on Thursday was ‘mistimed’ and called for an independent inquiry.
Theresa May has become the latest Conservative heavyweight to wade into the row over Dominic Cummings, saying he broke the ‘spirit’ of lockdown rules
The PM has seen his party’s ratings tumble by four points in a week amid the Dominic Cummings row, while support for Labour has gone up five points, according to a YouGov survey for the Times
She said the public need not have been notified so early, putting additional pressure on police to enforce lockdown during a heatwave weekend.
Theresa May has become the latest Conservative heavyweight to wade into the row over Dominic Cummings, saying he broke the ‘spirit’ of lockdown rules.
Timeline of Durham police’s involvement in the Cummings case
22 May – Dominic Cummings is accused of breaching lockdown by driving to his father’s farm in Durham.
A Durham police statement said the force contacted the owner of the address to remind the individual they had breached lockdown.
23 May – Durham Constabulary said they spoke to Cummings’ father and discussed security matters.
An eyewitness said they saw Cummings at Barnard Castle.
24 May – Journalists accuse Cummings of breaching lockdown again, by returning to London, where he had been photographed.
25 May – The chief advisor addressed the allegations in a public statement, where he admitted to travelling to Barnard Castle, 30 miles away from the family home. He denied the second journey to London.
Durham’s Acting Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Steve White asked the Constabulary to investigate any potential breaches of law or regulations in the Cummings case.
28 May – The force announced they did not believe the chief advisor had committed an offence in relation to his journey to Durham.
They added that a minor breach to lockdown rules ‘might’ have happened in relation to Cummings’ second trip to Barnard Castle.
They said they would not be taking any further action.
29 May – It’s revealed that Durham Police have received 10 complaints about the Constabulary’s handling of the case.
In a letter to her constituents in Maidenhead, the former prime minister said her successor’s senior adviser ‘didn’t act within the spirit of the guidance’ and that she ‘can well understand the anger’ of those who did.
Mr Cummings was accused of breaking lockdown rules after travelling from London to his parent’s farm in Durham against government guidance over fears he would be struck down by coronavirus and unable to care for his son.
After recovering from what he says was coronavirus, the aide took a trip to a local beauty spot near Barnard Castle with his family to ‘test his eyesight’ before returning to London.
Durham Police said that Mr Cummings ‘might’ have broken the rules with the trip, but would be taking any further action.
There are now nearly 100 Tory MPs, including several ministers, who have either called for Mr Cummings to go or criticised his conduct.
Last night, Theresa May became the latest prominent Tory MP to criticise the aide.
She said: What this matter has shown is that there was a discrepancy between the simple messages given by the Government and the details of the legislation passed by Parliament.
‘In these circumstances I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance.’
His actions were met with fury from the public and politicians when they were exposed by the Daily Mirror and The Guardian.
‘I can well understand the anger of those who have been abiding by the spirit of the guidance given by the Government and expect others to do so,’ Mrs May added.
But she also raised concerns that the ongoing focus on Mr Cummings ‘has been detracting from the most important task, which is dealing with Coronavirus and starting the process of recovery and easing lockdown.’
Durham Police: Full statement on Dominic Cummings’ alleged lockdown breach
On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.
Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)
On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.
In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.
By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.
Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.