Deadline Missed To Hand Over Key Boris Johnson Covid WhatsApps To Inquiry

The BBC reports the ex-prime minister's mobile phone containing messages prior to May 2021 cannot be accessed.
Former British prime minister Boris Johnson.
Former British prime minister Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages from the start of the Covid-19 outbreak have yet to be handed to an inquiry into the pandemic despite a strict deadline.

The BBC reported on Wednesday a problem with the former prime minister’s old phone means a crucial group chat cannot be accessed. The government was supposed to have handed over all relevant material by 4pm on Monday.

Last month, the Cabinet Office revealed it had no WhatsApp communications for Johnson before May 2021 as the result of a “well-publicised security breach” – specifically the Popbitch website revealing at that time that his number had been publicly available online for 15 years.

The Sun reported a spokesperson saying Johnson was given security advice to not turn on the old device again – meaning that he was unable to see the earlier messages.

Now the BBC reports the phone cannot be accessed – and is currently with Johnson’s lawyers. The problem appears to be Johnson not knowing the passcode to the device, and that is apparently the only way to access the messages.

The BBC reported the rest of Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages, notebooks and diaries were sent to the inquiry on Monday morning.

Last week, the government lost its legal bid to block Johnson’s documents being given to the Covid inquiry.

Baroness Hallett, the chair of the official inquiry into the pandemic, had issued a legal order to force the Cabinet Office to hand over the evidence.

But the government opposed the move and launched a judicial review, arguing some of the material was “unambiguously irrelevant”.

In a ruling last Thursday, the High Court sided with the inquiry. The government said it would “comply fully” with the judgement, and Baroness Hallett gave the Cabinet Office until 4pm on Monday to hand over Johnson’s messages.

The cache of documents is likely to include text conversations between Johnson and a host of government figures – including Rishi Sunak, who was chancellor during the pandemic.

Johnson himself had said he was “more than happy” for the inquiry to have his messages and had threatened to deliver them himself.


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