Durham police discovered, following an investigation, that Cummings’ 26-mile trip to Barnard Castle “could have been a minor violation of the rules that would have justified police intervention.”
No further police action will be taken against Cummings and the police said they did not believe they had committed a crime by driving approximately 260 miles from London to Durham to relocate his family while isolating themselves.
But Thursday’s police announcement gave another twist in a scandal that threatened to derail Johnson’s response to the pandemic.
Both Cummings and the Prime Minister had repeatedly insisted that he had done nothing wrong by driving from London to Durham in late March, or visiting Barnard Castle in mid-April as they returned to London.
Cummings said on Monday that he had driven for half an hour in the city just to test his eyesight and see if he could really drive safely – a claim that was met with skepticism by critics and some lawmakers.
At the time, Johnson urged the British to “stay home” and government guidance allowed people to leave the house once a day to exercise, but not to go to other places to do it.
Johnson’s reaction to the police announcement suggests that he will not give up in support of Cummings. “Police have made it clear that they are not taking action against Mr. Cummings for his self-isolation and that going to Durham has not violated the rules,” said a Downing Street spokesman on Thursday.
“The Prime Minister said he believed Mr. Cummings had acted reasonably and lawfully under all circumstances and considered this issue closed.”
But a growing group of lawmakers called on Cummings – seen by many as the architect of many of the government’s policies – to step down, and accused Johnson of undermining his public health messages in the midst of a pandemic.
“Boris Johnson’s reluctance or inability to do the right thing has left the government unreliable and unprincipled,” said Labor leader Keir Starmer. “Worse still, it undermined the public health council that keeps us all safe, just to keep a helper in his job. Our nation’s health must come first.”
On Wednesday, Johnson said he understood the “outrage” that the public might feel about Cummings’ actions, adding: “But I think what they want now is that we focus on them and their needs rather than on a ding. Political dong about a consultant may or may not have done it. “
CNN’s Sarah Dean and Luke McGee contributed to the report.
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