Covid Inquiry head making ‘no comment’ on legal row over Johnson messages

Baroness Hallett told a preliminary inquiry hearing that she would not speak about the judicial review proceedings launched by ministers.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

The chairwoman of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry has said she will not be commenting on the legal row with the Cabinet Office, in her first public remarks since ministers launched judicial review proceedings against the probe.

Baroness Heather Hallett said at a preliminary inquiry hearing on Tuesday that she will be making “no further comment” on the legal challenge to her request for Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages due to “pending” litigation.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Retired Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett is chairing the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

The retired senior judge’s deadline for the UK Government to hand over the former prime minister’s WhatsApp messages and notebooks in an unredacted format was missed by the Cabinet Office last week, with ministers instead announcing plans to challenge the request in the courts.

Ministers have defended the highly unusual move, citing concerns over material that is “unambiguously irrelevant”, despite doubts by some legal experts over whether they are likely to win the case.

During Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Lady Hallett is due to focus on Module 2 of the inquiry, which will look into core political and administrative decision making by the UK Government.

Preliminary hearings will consider how the investigation should be run rather than taking evidence.

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