Sue Gray report: Kate Josephs leaving drinks under police investigation, initial inquiry findings reveal

A leaving drinks do held for the chief executive of Sheffield Council while she was head of the Government’s Covid taskforce is under police investigation.

Monday, 31st January 2022, 3:56 pm

A scathing report into lockdown breaching parties held by senior Government officials by civil servant Sue Gray was published today.

It scolds members of Whitehall’s behaviour as “difficult to justify” and points to No 10 and the Cabinet Office for “failures of leadership,” stating: “some of the events should not have been allowed to take place".

However, the report released today is limited, following a request by the Metropolitan Police not to publish details of parties they are investigating.

Leaving drinks held for the chief executive of Sheffield Council Kate Josephs during lockdown in December 2020 are under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

Ms Gray writes in it: “I am extremely limited in what I can say about those events and it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report.”

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In her report, Sue Gray says she looked at 16 separate gatherings, and that 12 are now under police investigation.

Those include the leaving drinks on December 17, 2020 for the then-director general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is driven from Downing Street on January 31, 2022 in London, England.

The report references the “gathering in Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, on the departure of a senior Cabinet Office official” on a list of incidents under investigation by police.

Ms Josephs released a statement and apologised about the party just minutes before a national newspaper published the story.

She had repeatedly denied to local journalists that she had been involved in any Downing Street parties.

A police officer stands at 10 Downing Street on January 29, 2022 in London, England.

The list of gatherings under investigation also includes a leaving party held for the Prime Minister’s director of communications, James Slack – who is from Sheffield – that took place on April 26, 2021. He is now deputy editor-in-chief at The Sun newspaper.

Mr Slack’s leaving party was held the night before the Queen attended her husband's funeral wearing a face mask and socially distanced from her family at Windsor Castle, in line with Covid restrictions. He later “apologised unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused”.

Her statement said she had gathered with colleagues that were at work that day but it was later revealed an email was sent to 40 guests.

The report concludes: “At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.”

It adds: “… a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded."