The UK High Court of Justice held Thursday that the Cabinet Office must hand over all documents Covid-19 Inquiry chair Baroness Heather Hallett requests, including former prime minister Boris Johnson’s diaries and WhatsApp messages.
The Cabinet Office launched a judicial review case against Hallett’s request last week. While Hallett argued she should determine which documents were and were not relevant to the Inquiry, the Cabinet Office disagreed and took the challenge to the High Court. The judicial review, heard by Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Garnham, dismissed the claim, deciding the Cabinet Office cannot withhold these documents from the Inquiry. However, in consideration of privacy, Baroness Hallett must hand back whichever documents she deems irrelevant to the Inquiry without showing these to third parties.
Commenting on the judgement in a statement issued via social media, the Cabinet Office stated:
The Court’s judgement is a sensible resolution and will mean that the Inquiry Chair is able to see the information she may deem relevant, but we can work together to have an arrangement that respects the privacy of individuals and ensures completely irrelevant information is returned and not retained.
The Covid Inquiry, launched in Spring 2022, is set to continue until 2025 as the Inquiry team investigates the UK’s handling of the pandemic. The Cabinet Office promised to “comply fully” with the High Court’s recent judgement and “will now work with the Inquiry team on the practical arrangements.”