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We want to be an organisation that puts its hands up promptly and fulsomely when we get stuff wrong. “Live your values” is what I say in my Twitter bio – and it’s right that I, and Good Law Project, be held to that standard.
In a hearing in our Abingdon case, a witness statement sworn by Lord Bethell was referenced by one of the barristers. One of the rules of civil procedure is that, once a ‘document’ is “referred to” in open court, it can be published. I took the view that this meant we could publish an extract from the witness statement. So we did.
That view – which would have been right if the witness statement was a ‘document’ – was wrong because there is another rule which deals explicitly with witness statements. That other rule displaces the ‘documents’ rule. It says that a witness statement can only be published once it “has been put in evidence” and the fact of a witness statement being “referred to” doesn’t put it in evidence.
The consequence is that we did something we shouldn’t have done and we published an extract from that witness statement.
I have apologised to the Secretary of State and the Court. You can read the letter containing my apology here – and I repeat that apology.
This is not the place for me to explain, justify or try to mitigate the circumstances of that error. Rules are important and we will always do our best to abide by them. We hold the Government to high standards and they are entitled to hold us to the same standards.
We have taken steps to seek to avoid a repetition. You can see those steps described in that letter. We have also deleted the publication of the extract and our tweets referring to it – and, although the Secretary of State has not asked us to, our Instagram posts which refer to it as well.