Downing St demands Partygate probe pictures are NOT published
Downing Street demands that police do NOT publish 300 Partygate pictures – including those of Boris Johnson – handed to officers running probe into alleged illegal gatherings
- Scotland Yard has said it will not name any individuals handed Partygate fines
- Cabinet Office wants it to withhold any photographs that would identify people
- Pic of the PM enjoying a beer at his birthday party believed to be among images
Downing Street has demanded police keep secret hundreds of pictures handed to an official probe into the Partygate scandal, a leaked document revealed today.
Information shared with civil servants suggests that Scotland Yard will not identify by name anyone handed a fixed penalty notice (FPN) fine by the investigation into a string of events in No10 during lockdown.
But the message, seen by ITV News, suggests the Cabinet Office has asked the Metropolitan Police to also commit to not publishing any images handed to detectives if they would lead to people being identified.
The force has previously indicated that it has been given around 300, with Boris Johnson believed to be included in some of them.
Police officers investigating the Partygate scandal have reportedly been handed a photo of the Prime Minister holding a can of beer at his lockdown birthday party in June 2020.
The picture features the Prime Minister raising a can of Estrella standing next to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Downing Street Cabinet Room as he toasts towards the camera, according to the Mirror.
ITV cited the document as saying: ‘The Met has said it has been handed more than 300 photographs as part of its investigation. 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.’
It comes after Downing Street said on Monday that the Prime Minister’s responses to his police questionnaire into gatherings at No 10 will not be made public.
Boris Johnson, pictured here after the Cabinet reshuffle in February 2020, was allegedly photographed with a beer during his lockdown birthday party which is now being investigated
The photo was reportedly one collected during the inquiry being lead by civil servant Sue Gray (pictured leaving the Cabinet Office on Thursday morning)
But Boris Johnson insisted he will have ‘a lot more’ to say on the ‘partygate’ row once the police investigation is concluded.
The Met have sent the questionnaire to approximately 50 people as they investigate 12 gatherings in Downing Street and wider Government in an inquiry called Operation Hillman, which is examining whether Covid restrictions were broken.
The Prime Minister is alleged to have been at up to six of the events.
The Daily Telegraph reported that a Q&A sheet had been sent to Government officials caught up in the inquiry, detailing certain aspects of what information will and will not be published by the police over the course of their investigation.
The Met confirmed that a document had been drawn up by the Cabinet Office to brief staff, and that it was ‘consulted on those aspects relevant to its investigation and legal processes’.
The newspaper cited the Q&A sheet as suggesting the Met would confirm the number of FPNs issued in relation to each gathering under investigation – if any – and give its reasons for imposing the fines, without identifying individuals.
It said one line in the document reads: ‘The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) approach during the pandemic has been to confirm the number of FPNs issued at particular events and to explain what those FPNs were issued for.’
On whether the Civil Service will ‘make public’ details of the fines, the Q&A sheet reportedly says: ‘No. The Met will not publish the names of those who have received FPNs and the Civil Service will not know the details of recipients.’
The advice is said to have been sent to many officials interviewed by senior civil servant Sue Gray over the course of her inquiry into alleged lockdown-busting parties, or who attended gatherings now under investigation by the police.
The Telegraph said the Q&A sheet was drawn up by a Cabinet Office unit separate from Ms Gray’s investigations team.
Asked about the reports, the Met said: ‘This document was prepared by the Cabinet Office to brief staff. The MPS was consulted on those aspects relevant to its investigation and legal processes.’
The Cabinet Office declined to comment on a live investigation.
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