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December 10, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:51am

Sky News takes Kay Burley off air for six months after Covid-19 lockdown rule breach

By Charlotte Tobitt

Sky News has taken its star presenter Kay Burley off air for six months after ruling she did breach Covid-19 lockdown rules with her 60th birthday party.

The broadcaster also said political editor Beth Rigby and North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid, who attended the event in London, will be off air for three months.

In a statement, Sky News said: “All those involved regret the incident and have apologised.

“Everyone at Sky News is expected to comply with the rules and the company takes breaches like this very seriously indeed.”

The broadcaster has refused to reveal whether the three journalists will be paid during their time away from TV screens.

Burley said in a statement: “I have today agreed with Sky News to step back from my broadcasting role for a period of reflection.

“It’s clear to me that we are all in the fight against Covid-19 and that we all have a duty to stick firmly by the rules.

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“It doesn’t matter that I thought I was Covid-compliant on a recent social event. The fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake, and I am sorry.

“Some dear friends and colleagues – some of the most talented and committed professionals in our business – have been pulled into this episode and I regret this enormously.

“I was one of the founding presenters on Sky News. No one is prouder of our channel’s reputation, the professionals on our team, and the impact we make.

“I very much look forward to being able to continue my 32-year career with Sky when I return.”

Presenter Sam Washington, who had also been linked to the event, will be back on air next week, Press Gazette understands.

Original story published on Wednesday 9 December:

Sky News has said it will not say anything further about the alleged breaches of coronavirus restrictions by star presenter Kay Burley and three of her fellow journalists after launching an internal investigation.

Breakfast presenter Burley (pictured), political editor Beth Rigby, North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid and presenter Sam Washington reportedly joined Burley to celebrate her 60th birthday.

Guido Fawkes was the first to report that the journalists were among a group of ten sitting across two tables at the Century Club in Soho on Saturday night. The club has a roof terrace and gatherings of up to six people from different households are allowed outside.

Burley has admitted going to a second restaurant, but said it was only to use the toilet.

After making an initial statement about being “disappointed” and launching an internal review, Sky has declined to answer questions about whether Sky News would report on what had happened, whether it would publish the results of its internal investigation, and whether disciplinary action was possible.

All four of the named journalists have reportedly been taken off the air, with Burley not due to return until 2021 as she already had annual leave booked after Friday.

She was replaced by Niall Paterson on Wednesday morning’s breakfast show while Sarah Hewson took over at the last minute from Coventry University Hospital on Tuesday, the morning after the news broke.

A Sky News spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We place the highest importance on complying with the government guidelines on COVID, and we expect all our people to comply.

“We were disappointed to learn that a small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines.

“Although this took place at a social event in personal time, we expect all our people to follow the rules that are in place for everyone.

“An internal process is underway to review the conduct of the people involved.”

Burley apologised on Twitter for an “error of judgment” after she “inadvertently broke the rules” by “popping into another restaurant” after the 11pm curfew to use the toilet.

A subsequent tweet in which she wrote “whatever else you read be safe in the knowledge I was always heading to my beloved Africa on Friday to sit with lions. They kill for food not sport” has since been deleted.

London’s Tier 2 rules mean indoor socialising between households is banned and there is a limit of six on groups gathering outside.

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Photo credit: Sky News / Youtube

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