Cummings 'should have resigned in May', say Barnard Castle witnesses

Whistleblowers say they will keep campaigning to hold Cummings to account over lockdown trip

Dominic Cummings at a press conference in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street in May
Dominic Cummings at a press conference at 10 Downing Street in May, after allegations he and his family travelled from London to Durham while the nation was under lockdown. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/AFP/Getty Images
Dominic Cummings at a press conference at 10 Downing Street in May, after allegations he and his family travelled from London to Durham while the nation was under lockdown. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/AFP/Getty Images

Last modified on Fri 13 Nov 2020 23.36 EST

Those who blew the whistle on Dominic Cummings’ lockdown journeys have said his resignation has come too late and vowed to continue campaigning to hold him to account.

Cummings’ family trip to Barnard Castle on his wife’s birthday was first exposed by Robin Lees, a retired chemistry teacher from the town, after an investigation by the Guardian and Daily Mirror in May.

Lees, who also put in a complaint to the police about the journey, said on Friday: “He should have gone six months ago.”

Rosalind Evans, a retired council worker who also reported seeing a man she believed to be Cummings in the town on 12 April, said: “He should have resigned in May when this came out. He should have taken responsibility and apologised for what he did then, I don’t see any of that happening now.”

After a three-day investigation, Durham police concluded that Cummings may have breached health protection rules by travelling to Barnard Castle but they decided not to take any further action and made no ruling on his decision to leave his London home for Durham while suffering from suspected Covid-19.

Evans said: “He should still be properly investigated. As a individual in the position he was in at that particular time, there is absolutely no reason he why he did what he did. He needs to be called to account as an individual person, and that doesn’t go away with time. That’s not the way things works with other people.”

Dave and Clare Edwards, two of four people who claimed to have seen Cummings make a second trip to Durham, despite his denial, are also carrying on their fight for a further investigation by Durham police.

Dave Edwards said: “We have nothing against him and if he wants to resign that is his choice. However, it will not stop us from wanting to know why the police did not investigate our complaint and establish the facts.”

In his statement, Cummings claimed he had evidence to prove he was not in Durham on 19 April when the Edwardses claim to have seen him. When challenged by the Commons’ liaison committee, Boris Johnson said he had seen this evidence and claimed Cummings had done nothing wrong. But Downing Street has refused repeated requests to release this evidence for public scrutiny.

Clare Edwards says. “Establishing the facts is still important because if he was in Durham on the 19 April, Boris Johnson lied to the liaison committee to protect him.”

Last week the high court rejected an attempt to challenge the director of public prosecutions against the decision not to investigate Cummings over the alleged lockdown breaches. This week, Martin Redston, the engineering consultant who brought the case, lodged a challenge against that decision in a letter to the court of appeal.

He said: “We will carry on fighting this even if Cummings resigns. If he stops being part of Johnson’s coterie he is still in my opinion guilty of a lockdown breach and should still be investigated in the same way any private citizen would have been.”

Nazir Afzal, a former regional chief prosecutor, will also continue with a campaign to get Cummings investigated for allegedly perverting the course of justice over his statement in the Downing Street garden in May.

He said: “Our investigation has been shared with police and [the] Crown Prosecution Service and we await their decisions. We remain determined to see this to a conclusion.”

On Thursday it emerged that Cummings was given a preview of the Durham police statement about its investigation into his lockdown journeys. A Freedom of Information request by the Metro newspaper uncovered that Cummings was given the statement before it was made public. The force said this was done out of courtesy and it was the only contact it had with Downing Street over the affair.

It said: “At no point in the decision-making process did the investigating officer have any contact with the government or office of the prime minister or any agent thereof. The only contact with Downing Street was one-way contact to inform Mr Cummings of the outcome of the investigation and to provide a copy of the press release out of courtesy shortly before the press statement was released.”

Redston said: “I’m appalled that he was given early sight of the press statement. The police didn’t tell Cliff Richard what was going on before they raided his house, out of the blue. So again there seems to be one law for one person, and another for the rest. This whole thing suggests preferential treatment.”

Durham police have been approached for comment.