From Barnard Castle to Beergate: Durham Police Chief again at the center of the national row | Police
Her appointment made history as Durham Police’s first female Chief Constable.
But for the second time in her three-year tenure, Jo Farrell has found herself at the center of a national row over a police investigation that could have ramifications for Britain’s political landscape.
On Friday, Durham Constabulary said they would investigate allegations that Sir Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules after days of pressure from Tory MPs and further revelations from right-wing newspapers. Labor said it would cooperate with the investigation.
In May 2020, Farrell, 53, faced similar demands to question Dominic Cummings after a Guardian and Mirror investigation found Boris Johnson‘s key adviser broke lockdown rules within his strength .
She did not allow her officers to question Cummings about his 260-mile journey to Durham from London or a later day at Barnard Castle to “test his eyesight”.
Amid a growing row over Cummings and the police response, reports claimed Farrell was the subject of formal complaints from the angry public over the force’s response to the allegations.
At the time, Durham Police issued a statement saying their force had not taken retrospective action on lockdown breaches. ‘Durham Constabulary took no retroactive action against any other person,’ he said.
In an interview with the daily mirror Farrell last month acknowledged the enormous pressure placed on her during the Cummings fury and said the decision not to question Cummings during a three-day inquest was made in line with the purpose of her force to remain neutral.
“We are apolitical so it was my job to make sure there was a proportionate line. If we had stopped him on his way to Barnard Castle we would have told him to turn around and to turn back.
“Thousands of people have lost their lives in the pandemic, so yeah, we never took that lightly. But we couldn’t be swayed by the huge political sentiment towards him as an individual and his role in government,” she said.
She told the Mirror that the force instead treated Cummings’ televised press conference in the Downing Street Rose Garden as a witness statement about his behavior. In May 2021 Cummings admitted to MPs that he had not told the whole truth in the Rose Garden.
Farrell can now expect to be asked to explain whether his strength bowed to political pressure over the decision to open an investigation into the ‘Beergate’ allegations against Starmer.
And once again, every gesture of his strength during the investigation will be closely scrutinized by politicians and the media.
A spokesperson for the force said: “Earlier this year Durham Police carried out an assessment to determine whether Covid-19 regulations had been breached at a rally in Durham City on April 30, 2021. At that time, it was concluded that no offense had been established.
“Following the receipt of significant new information in recent days, Durham Constabulary has reviewed this position and now, following the conclusion of the pre-election period, we can confirm that an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations relating to this gathering is currently underway. »
Born in Wirral, Farrell and her family moved to Cambridgeshire when she was 15. After a commerce degree at Sheffield Polytechnic, she joined the police as a constable in Cambridge in 1991 before joining Northumbria Police.
There she was in charge of firearms on the night the biggest manhunt in recent criminal history ended with the death of killer Raoul Moat, who took his own life when he was cornered by the police.
She joined Durham Constabulary in November 2016 and was appointed Chief Constable in June 2019, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the force’s 180-year history.
At the national level, she works for the National Council of Chiefs of Police in the areas of information management and quality of criminal justice records, and supports the charity Crimestoppers.
She is married to a retired police officer and has two stepsons and a daughter. Outside of work, Farrell says she enjoys family life, cooking and staying in shape.