Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir did not overstep her bounds by telephoning the Capital Area Police Commissioner after police issued a notice to media that concerned a government minister. This is the opinion of Pirate Party MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson, who requested the Justice Minister come before the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee to discuss the case. Áslaug was questioned by the committee this morning and the Capital Area Police Commissioner will also appear before it tomorrow. Áslaug phoned the Commissioner after a police notice to media stated that a minister had been among guests at an event that breached COVID-19 regulations.
On the night of December 23, police broke up a gathering of 40-50 people in downtown Reykjavík where several COVID-19 regulations were being broken. Not only was the national gathering limit 10 at the time, but the event’s guests were breaking two-metre distancing and mask use regulations as well as consuming alcohol after the mandated closing time. A media release from police stated that an “honourable minister” had been present at the gathering but omitted the minister’s identity. It later came to light the minister in question was Bjarni.
Last month, media reported that Áslaug called the Police Commissioner twice on the day after the incident. According to Áslaug, she called the Commissioner due to questions from media which concerned the police’s working procedure for releasing information. Áslaug stated that she knew the MP in question was her fellow Independence Party member Bjarni Benediktsson before she made the calls.
Formal Request Would Have Been More Appropriate
“Such communication can be on the boundary of the Minister’s supervisory role and then unreasonable interference in a case that is under investigation by the police. We just wanted to make sure that everything was on the right side of the line,” Andrés Ingi told reporters. When asked whether the calls were in fact on the right side of the line, he answered: “There is no indication otherwise, at least, but we need to review it in more detail.” After Áslaug’s testimony, the committee decided to interview the National Police Commissioner tomorrow to hear her side of the story.
While the phone calls may not have crossed beyond Áslaug’s role, Andrés Ingi did state that it “would have probably been more appropriate to skip these phone calls and submit this request for information in a formal fashion between officials.”