Cummings and the cops
I expect there’ll be a few sighs of relief among the senior ranks of Durham Police at the news that Dominic Cummings is stepping down.
The PM’s chief adviser was accused of breaking lockdown rules by travelling to the county at the end of March and later driving to the town of Barnard Castle supposedly to test his eyesight before the long drive back to London.
The Durham constabulary was engulfed in controversy after deciding it would not take any action against Cummings in spite of a “minor breach” of the coronavirus regulations due to the Barnard Castle trip.
The force also said there was “insufficient evidence” to support allegations that he’d made a second journey to the area.
The Guardian has reported that legal efforts are continuing to secure a further police inquiry while Nazir Afzal, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor, is said to be still campaigning for an investigation into allegations of perverting the course of justice relating to Cummings’ statement about the episode which he memorably delivered in the garden of 10 Downing Street.
But even if the legal challenges rumble on, the 48-year-old’s departure from government will take the sting out of a highly-charged issue that had become an unwelcome diversion for the force.
It was also a huge headache for Steve White, Durham’s Acting Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner.
He’d stuck his neck out early on, when other commissioners might have kept quiet, by describing Cummings’ 270-mile journey north while infected with Covid-19 as “most unwise”.
White had then called on the police force to establish the “facts” regarding any potential breaches of the lockdown rules.
For his troubles, the former Police Federation Chairman was subject to an investigation himself - after five members of the public complained about what he’d done.
The complaints were discussed on October 15, at a meeting of Durham’s Police and Crime Panel, which oversees the Commissioner’s work.
However, the public were excluded from that part of the meeting and a record of what happened is not in the published minutes.
Were they available, it’s believed they would show that White had been cleared and the complaints dismissed, though no formal statement has been issued.
The sense is that the Panel, along with police leaders in Durham, wish the whole affair had never happened.