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British police to question 50 people in Boris Johnson 'partygate' investigation

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New pictures of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Christmas Quiz holiday event emerged from Scotland Yard. Photo by Leszek Szymenski/EPA-EFE
New pictures of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Christmas Quiz holiday event emerged from Scotland Yard. Photo by Leszek Szymenski/EPA-EFE

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- More than 50 people will be questioned by British police as investigations into parties that were held by Downing Street during lockdown continue.

Scotland Yard revealed on Thursday that Operation Hillman will begin this week as police ask for the accounts of attendees.

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Their investigation will look into eight dates spanning from May 20, 2020, to April 16, 2021.

"There may also be a need to contact further people in the coming days and weeks -- should they be identified as having taken part in an event and having potentially breached regulations," police said in a statement.

A criminal investigation into the conduct of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff is underway.

The Metropolitan police are looking into eight gatherings, examining over 500 documents and 300 images, and questioning those involved, they said.

Dubbed "partygate," the criminal investigation follows an internal investigation led by civil servant Sue Gray, with the surrounding scandal dominating British headlines in recent weeks.

RELATED Report into 'partygate' finds 'serious failures' in British PM Boris Johnson's leadership

Many opposition lawmakers and members of his own party have called for Johnson's resignation.

Johnson has apologized and promised to restructure the culture of his department.

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He shook up his board on Wednesday after promising to make changes to his senior team. Meanwhile, many senior advisers have left their positions amid the scandal.

RELATED Police ask for details on Boris Johnson's lockdown parties to be withheld

Police most recently announced that 50 people will be brought in and questioned about their participation -- Johnson is reportedly expected to be among them.

There are over a dozen alleged gatherings that took place during 2020, breaking social-distancing and lockdown rules.

These include a Christmas event, two leaving parties for departing staff and a summer gathering in the Downing Street garden where up to 100 staffers were invited.

A new picture of Johnson at a Christmas event at the prime minister's office, 10 Downing Street, also emerged recently.

The Dec. 15 event was not on Scotland Yard's list of dates, but it will possibly be added to the force's investigation, officials said.

Johnson's press secretary said the event was a virtual Christmas quiz.

"Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place," Gray wrote, according to ABC News.

"Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did ... Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behavior surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify," she wrote.

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Gray's report on the parties will be published after the criminal investigation is over.

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