Government to Launch Legal Action to Prevent Whatsapp Disclosure

The government is to launch a legal challenge over the Covid inquiry’s demand for WhatsApp messages and documents, citing that the documents and messages being sought by the inquiry are “unambiguously irrelevant” and cover matters “unconnected to the government’s handling of COVID”.

The government missed a 16:00 deadline to share Boris Johnson’s messages and notebooks from during the pandemic.

It is believed to be the first time a government has taken legal action against its own public inquiry.

The challenge comes after Boris Johnson, the prime minister during the pandemic, said he was “more than happy” to follow to the inquiry chairwoman’s request and hand over the material directly.

Ahead of a deadline of 4pm on Thursday to provide it, the Cabinet Office said it was bringing the judicial review challenge “with regret” and insisted it would “continue to co-operate fully with the inquiry before, during and after the jurisdictional issue in question is determined by the courts”.

The legal practice representing the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, Broudie Jackson Canter, said the move showed “utter disregard for the inquiry”.

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:
“The Government has promised to be “absolutely transparent” with the Covid inquiry. The 200,000 who lost their lives, the thousands of NHS staff who gave their all, and millions of patients who suffered through the pandemic, deserve nothing less.

“The BMA spent months collating accounts from doctors who lived and worked through the pandemic. Our final review, submitted to the public inquiry, showed the Government failed in its duty of care to protect doctors from avoidable harm and suffering. We undertook one of the largest, most detailed analyses of doctors’ views and experiences of the pandemic and submitted our findings to the inquiry in the hope that we help prevent a catastrophe of this magnitude happening again.

“So for this Government to firstly claim that Boris Johnson’s unredacted notebooks and WhatsApps were irrelevant and then that it didn’t even have access to them is nothing short of atrocious. Not only does refusing to handover such material undermine public confidence that the inquiry can be the definitive and honest account of what decisions were taken and why in those fateful months, but it shows how little care the Government still has for doctors, healthcare workers and indeed everyone impacted by the pandemic.

“This public inquiry must have access to all the evidence it asks for – no matter who holds it. The Government must think very carefully today about their responsibility to history and to the truth. They have been given a chance to come clean and deliver this material, there must be no further excuses. We will continue to hold them to account, today and as the inquiry progresses.”




















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