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Durham police facing possible inquiry into handling of Cummings case

Force’s findings prompt complaints which could lead to misconduct investigation

Dominic Cummings departs his home in London

Durham police said they might have intervened to send Dominic Cummings home had they caught him on the trip on 12 April. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Durham police is facing a possible inquiry into its handling of the Dominic Cummings saga after complaints were passed to its internal investigation team.

The force has received a number of complaints from members of the public angry at the way it dealt with Boris Johnson’s aide over his travels during lockdown.

It is understood the messages have been passed to the force’s professional standards department which is assessing whether to take matters further.

The force, one of the smallest in Britain, was thrust into the spotlight when the Guardian and Mirror revealed a week ago that Cummings drove 260 miles from London to his family property in Durham then made a second trip to a local beauty spot.

Following an investigation this week, Durham police said it believed the special adviser probably did break lockdown rules by embarking on a 52-mile round trip to the town of Barnard Castle with his wife and son on her birthday.

Officers might have intervened to send him home had they caught him on the trip on 12 April, or fined him if he refused, the report said.

Its investigation also concluded that Cummings did not break health protection regulations by making the 260-mile trip to Durham with his son and wife, who had coronavirus symptoms, though it made no finding in relation to the “stay at home” government guidance.

The force’s findings have been met with anger in some quarters, prompting several emailed complaints which were then passed on to its professional standards department as is protocol. The complaints were first revealed by the Telegraph on Friday.

The nature of the complaints is not known. The force’s findings published on Thursday prompted anger both from people who believe Cummings did break the law and those who believe the force should never have retrospectively investigated the matter.

A Durham constabulary spokesman said: “There is currently no investigation into the force’s handling of this inquiry.”

The professional standards department could decide to take matters further if it believes there is enough evidence to warrant a misconduct investigation. Such investigations have the authority to seize documents, interview witnesses and even arrest serving police officers.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said no referral had been made to it from Durham police and therefore it was not conducting any investigation.

Cummings has denied any wrongdoing and said the journey to Barnard Castle on 12 April, Easter Sunday, was to test his eyesight. The prime minister and cabinet continued to stand by him on Friday.

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