Activists are concerned Boris Johnson’s failure to set a start date for the public inquiry into Covid could result in vital evidence being destroyed
Image: Jonathan Buckmaster)
Boris Johnson could face legal action over a delay in starting the Covid investigation by families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Activists are concerned the prime minister’s failure to set a start date could result in crucial evidence being destroyed.
He committed himself in Parliament last year to a public inquiry to begin in spring 2022, and appointed retired judge Baroness Hallet to lead it last December.
But more than six months later, the official inquiry into Britain’s handling of the pandemic, which is expected to embarrass the government, still has not begun.
Downing Street is yet to announce the final terms of the inquiry, which will cover everything from care home deaths to lockdowns.
The Covid-19 Survivors for Justice campaign is now considering launching a judicial review against ministers.
Elkan Abrahamson, of law firm Broudie Jackson Canter, which advises the campaign, said: “The vast majority of inquiries provide an incorporation date within days or weeks of the chairman’s appointment, so this delay of over six months is both unprecedented and completely inexplicable.
“The consequences are extremely serious, as destroying or tampering with evidence only becomes a criminal offense once the investigation has begun.
“By not giving one, the prime minister is opening the door to the destruction of important evidence.
He added: “After everything they have suffered, the last thing bereaved families want is legal action against the government, but if the Prime Minister continues to do everything possible to delay the inquiry and undermine their credibility before they can.” even started, they may have no choice.”
The campaign says the 2005 Investigations Act states that “an investigation shall not begin examining evidence before the establishment date,” meaning the investigation remains in limbo.
The families have also raised concerns that the law only makes it a criminal offense to destroy or tamper with evidence after the investigation has actually begun.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “It is clear that the only lesson the Prime Minister has learned from Partygate is that he gets away with lying to bereaved families.
“He assured us that he would start the investigation by spring 2022, a deadline that was already far too late and here we are at the end of June with no progress.
“These delays slow how quickly we can learn lessons from the pandemic and could cost lives, so why is the PM wasting endless time?
“He could set up the investigation and start the process with the stroke of a pen.”
She added: “More worryingly, this delay makes it much more likely that vital evidence will be lost or destroyed.
“If the Prime Minister cannot do what is necessary to enable Baroness Hallet to learn the lessons of the death of our loved ones, we must consider all the options available to us.”
The pandemic has so far resulted in 196,977 deaths with Covid on the death certificate.
A government spokesman said: “In accordance with the inquiry law, the Prime Minister has consulted the decentralized administrations and is now in the process of finalizing the mandate. These will be published shortly.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-faces-legal-action-27330958 Boris Johnson threatens legal action from survivors for delaying Covid inquiry