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Latest 30 June 2023

Cabinet Office appears to have misled the High Court over Boris Johnson’s phone messages

Marc Ward / Alamy Stock Photo

Last year, during our legal challenge in the High Court, we were told by the government that none of Boris Johnson’s messages from his mobile phone prior to April 2021 were available.

A witness statement provided by Sarah Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for the Cabinet Office, asserted: 

“In April 2021, in light of a well-publicised security breach, the Prime Minister implemented security advice relating to a mobile device. The effect was that historic messages were no longer available to search and the phone is not active.”

However, following pressure from the Covid Inquiry’s chair, Baroness Heather Hallett, the Cabinet Office has changed its position.

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Mr Keith, the Lead Counsel to the Inquiry confirmed on 06 June 2023: 

“We have therefore agreed that this phone should be provided to the appropriate personnel in government for its contents to be downloaded. We have asked the Cabinet Office, in liaison with Mr Johnson and those government personnel, to obtain the phone without delay, to confirm in writing the process by which it will be examined, and to give confirmation that it, like the diaries and the notebooks and the WhatsApps, will be accessed fully”.

Mr Keith further added: 

“So, my Lady, the concluding point is we will shortly gain access to all the material on an unredacted basis”.

The Cabinet Office’s conduct raises serious questions over whether it can be trusted to ‘mark its own homework’ in the Covid Inquiry by deciding what is and is not relevant. This is, of course, the issue which underlies its judicial review challenge, to be heard later today, to demands made by the Inquiry that it hand over all WhatsApp messages.

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