Bullying inquiry concludes Priti Patel 'unintentionally' broke the rules

Britain's Interior Minister underwent investigation after allegations were made by a former top civil servant

FILE PHOTO: Priti Patel, now Britain's interior minister, leaves after a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in central London, Britain June 27, 2016.   REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

An inquiry into allegations of bullying by Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel has found that she "unintentionally" broke the rules of ministers' behaviour, the BBC and other media reported on Thursday.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked officials to carry out an inquiry in March to “establish the facts” after allegations were raised against the interior minister.

Upon his resignation, Philip Rutnam, Britain’s top official in the interior ministry, said he had become the "target of a vicious and orchestrated campaign against him," which he alleged Ms Patel was involved in.

Ms Patel has rejected these accusations but she is a figure who appears to perpetually court controversy. In 2017, she was forced to resign as Britain's international aid minister after having secret meetings with Israeli officials during a "family holiday". And since assuming her current post, she has attracted criticism for mulling sending migrants to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic to be processed and became embroiled in a gaslighting row at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer.

The independent report was concluded in the summer but it has not yet been published.

The BBC, citing unnamed sources, said the draft report had found Patel had broken the ministerial code which states ministers should treat officials with respect, and that there was evidence of bullying even if it was unintentional.

"The process is ongoing and the prime minister will make any decision on the matter public once the process has concluded," a government spokeswoman said in a statement in response to the reports.

Johnson's government has had an uneasy relationship with senior officials, with several top civil servants leaving their posts since his election win last December.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, home affairs spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the revelations could not be more serious.

"This has all the hallmarks of a cover-up from the prime minister and raises fundamental questions about his judgment," he said in a statement. "His actions are all but condoning bullying in the workplace."