Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “If Dominic Cummings has proof he didn’t go to Durham twice, he could show it now | Dominic Cummings”
When the Guardian and the Mirror revealed that Dominic Cummings had travelled to Durham and Barnard Castle during the first lockdown, our stories were dismissed by Downing Street as a “stream of false allegations by campaigning newspapers”.
Two days later, in the Downing Street rose garden, Cummings admitted they were true and prompted anger and ridicule by refusing to apologise and claiming he had travelled to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight. He only denied travelling to Durham a second time on 19 April and claimed he had phone evidence to prove it.
A year later and out of government, Cummings is attempting to revive his battered reputation before his appearance before the joint select committee next Wednesday.
He has been tweeting a long thread of lessons about tackling the pandemic, including the need for a strictly enforced lockdown. “Pseudo ‘lockdowns’ w/o serious enforcement are hopeless,” Cummings tweeted without apparent irony.
His own role in undermining public compliance was well documented by researchers at University College London, who found a significant decrease in public confidence in the lockdown that they called the “Cummings effect”.
A three-day investigation by Durham police noted that the trip to Barnard Castle was probably a breach of the rules, and that he would have been stopped if officers had known. But the force decided to take no further action and made no ruling on Cummings’ decision to leave his home in London, because the investigation was confined to County Durham. It said also there was “insufficient evidence” that Cummings had travelled to Durham a second time.
Clare Edwards, a nurse practitioner, and her husband, Dave, who works for a company that supplied some of the Nightingale hospitals, had given statements to the police claiming they had seen Cummings on the morning of 19 April in Durham’s Houghall woods. There were also two other alleged sightings of Cummings in this area at about the same time.
The Edwardses queried why their evidence was considered insufficient and urged the force to check automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras for Cummings’ vehicles. A Durham police review noted there was no evidence from ANPR cameras “in the Durham area on 19 April”. But it made no mention of whether officers checked the national ANPR database to see if Cummings’ cars had been caught travelling from London to Durham that weekend.
Labour’s Joy Allen, who was elected as Durham’s new police and crime commissioner (PCC) earlier this month, is expected to ask the force to double-check. Allen, who replaces a former police officer who had been acting PCC, said last year: “If I was Clare and Dave Edwards’ elected representative, I would wholeheartedly support their request to review ANPR data for that weekend to settle the matter once and for all.”
The former regional chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal is also still looking for answers. Last year his lawyers submitted a 225-page dossier detailing six alleged breaches of lockdown rules by Cummings. It also accused him of perverting the course of justice in his rose garden statement made during the initial police investigation. It noted that his denial of a second Durham trip and account of his movements in Barnard Castle were at odds with what several witnesses had claimed.
Durham police examined the file for three months, but dismissed it in February without explanation.
Afzal is still in discussion with lawyers about whether to take further legal action, including a private prosecution. Other legal attempts at a prosecution have floundered. And the Metropolitan police has insisted it does not investigate alleged lockdown breaches retrospectively.
In a blogpost on separate issues last month, Cummings said he would be prepared to submit his phone to the cabinet secretary to prove he did not leak a story to the BBC about Johnson giving tax assurances to James Dyson.
But Cummings has not been as forthcoming about the phone evidence he suggested he possesses that proves he was not in Durham on 19 April. Johnson said he had seen this evidence when MPs challenged him about it, but declined to allow the cabinet secretary to see it.
Cummings could help settle the issue by providing the evidence to MPs next Wednesday, but has to date refused all requests to do so.
Cummings has not responded to a request for comment.
Source: The Guardian
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