The Government has asked the Metropolitan Police for assurances that it will not publish 300 photographs from its investigation into Downing Street parties amid concerns they would allow staff members to be identified.
A leaked memo from the Cabinet Office’s Liaison Unit, set up to support staff who are being investigated by the police, on Wednesday confirmed officials had asked the Met to confirm that the photographs would not be published.
Detectives have used more than 300 photographs and 500 pages of evidence, collected by Sue Gray, to investigate 12 parties held in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office during lockdown for criminality.
If staff are found to have broken the law, they will have to pay a fixed penalty notice (FPN). The fines begin at £100 for the first offence, and double for each subsequent offence up to a cap of £6,400.
It is understood the Liaison Unit has also offered staff who are under investigation support from the civil service’s HR department amid concerns that the inquiry has caused stress and other mental health issues. Any civil servants identified by the media also have access to specialist press officers.
Staff have expressed concern to the unit about being identified in the press and requested confirmation that any punishments will not affect any background checks performed on them.
The leaked memo, obtained by ITV, said: “Consistent with its indication that it will not publish the identities of anyone issued a FPN, we would not expect the Met to publish photographs. The Liaison Unit has asked the Met to confirm this.”
The Telegraph understands that officers have not yet replied to the message to confirm that they will not release the photographs, but it would be unusual for a police force to release evidence relating to a crime punishable with an FPN.
The Met has previously said it will not identify civil servants who are reprimanded, but Number 10 has said it will declare the fixed penalty notice if Boris Johnson is fined.
The Prime Minister and other Downing Street staff have received a Met Police questionnaire about the 12 events under investigation. Mr Johnson has also hired a lawyer.
The Telegraph understands it is unlikely that the Gray report, which is separate to the police investigation, will contain the images her team obtained while investigating the parties.
Officials familiar with the investigation believe Ms Gray will explain what she learned from the images but will not describe them at length. Although some images of a Downing Street Zoom quiz have been published in the press, any more damaging images of the parties themselves have been kept secret.
If they are not leaked to the media, it is likely that they will never be seen by the public.
A source said it would be “unprecedented” for the Government to voluntarily publish photographic evidence showing the wrongdoing of its own staff.
The Cabinet Office declined to comment.