LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was fined by police Friday for not wearing a seatbelt while filming a social media clip in a moving vehicle.
Sunak became the second prime minister in history to receive a police fine while holding the UK’s highest post after his predecessor Boris Johnson, who was given a flat fine notice after it emerged he had breached England’s Covid restriction rules during ‘partygate’. scandal.
It is also the second fixed penalty notice Sunak has received in less than a year. He also paid £50 ($62) while he was serving as finance minister for attending a party celebrating Johnson’s birthday in breach of lockdown rules.
It was one of several law-breaking social events that took place at his home at 10 Downing St at a time when the public was prevented from viewing family and friends at risk of criminal prosecution.
Filmed in the back seat of a car, Sunak uploaded the video to Instagram on Thursday during a visit to Lancashire, in north-west England, where he was raising awareness of government schemes to boost local investment.
His failure to wear a seatbelt was quickly spotted by eagle-eyed onlookers and Lancashire police said on Friday they were fining Sunak.
The force did not say how much the fine was, but in the UK, a person can be fined up to £500 ($619) if they do not wear a seatbelt, unless there is an exception, such as for emergency services. , in a taxi, or if a driver is reversing.
A Sunak spokesman described this as a «brief misjudgment», according to Reuters. «He fully accepts that this was a mistake and he apologizes,» they told reporters.
Cat Smith, a member of parliament for the UK’s main opposition Labor Party, which is based in Lancashire, thanked police on Twitter for «campaigning for road safety all year long» and «also for reminding us that no one is above of the law».
Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner was less forgiving, tweeting on Friday that Sunak, who pledged «integrity, professionalism and accountability at all levels» when he took office in October, was a «liability.»
The fine ends a difficult week for the prime minister, who this week faced criticism for traveling across the UK on army planes rather than using public transport.
However, members of Sunak’s Conservative Party have defended their leader after his brush with the law.
«Of course it shouldn’t have happened,» Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told British broadcaster Sky News on Saturday. «But I think, with these things, what people expect the most is, you know, the individual in question, whoever they are, raise their hand, be honest about it, accept the mistake, pay the penalty.» (Sky News is owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.)
“I don’t think it’s something that will result in his resignation,” Raab added.