Boris Johnson’s investigation would be ruled ‘unlawful’ by courts, senior lawyer claims

Boris Johnson’s investigation would be ruled ‘unlawful’ by courts, senior lawyer claims
Boris Johnson’s investigation would be ruled ‘unlawful’ by courts, senior lawyer claims

Downing Street has published a legal opinion by prominent barrister Lord Pannick, who concluded that an investigation into whether Boris Johnson had misled Parliament was being carried out by an ‘unfair procedure’ which would be deemed ‘unlawful’ by the courts. courts.

The advice was commissioned by the Cabinet Office after MPs voted for an inquiry into whether Johnson’s denials about parties breaking the lockdown at No 10 amounted to contempt of Parliament.

Lord Pannick, who has previously appeared against the government, said it was “wrong in principle” for the commission, chaired by Labor’s Harriet Harman, to judge not only whether the Prime Minister had “knowingly misled” the Parliament, but also if he simply “misled” it.

Because of parliamentary privilege, committee decisions cannot be challenged in court.

But Lord Pannick said: ‘In our view, the committee is proposing to adopt an approach to the substantive issues which is wrong in principle in important respects, and the committee is also proposing to adopt an unfair procedure.

“But for parliamentary privilege, a court hearing a judicial review brought by Mr Johnson would, in our view, declare the approach taken by the committee to be unlawful.”

The 22-page document claimed that a finding of contempt would require proof that the Prime Minister intentionally misled Parliament.

And he said it was “unfair” that the identities of witnesses could be withheld from Mr Johnson and he could be denied the chance to cross-examine them.

The committee said it would follow the interpretation of House of Commons senior civil servant Eve Samson, clerk of the Journals, who said intent was “not relevant” in deciding whether contempt was committed.

But Lord Pannick insisted that an inaccurate statement by a minister “is only a contempt if the minister knew the statement was false and intended to mislead the House”. There was “no basis for the new approach the committee took”, he said.

He also said the committee’s decision to allow witnesses to testify anonymously was wrong.

The committee said this was necessary because some people with information might not want to come forward if their identity is revealed.

But Lord Pannick said: ‘That is not enough to allow anonymity in a criminal trial. And that’s because it’s unfair to the defendant. It is impossible to understand why such injustice should be tolerated in the current context.

Shadow Labor minister Thangam Debbonaire has accused the government of ‘playing fast and loose’ with the rules in a bid to save Mr Johnson from a humiliating discovery that could lead to him being suspended from the House of Commons and even forced to face a recall petition.

“The House of Commons debated it extensively on April 21,” she said. “It was a unanimous request. No one voted against.

“This government knew then what the rules were. They know what the rules are now.

“It’s like, again, there are people in this current – I’m afraid to say future – Conservative government is playing fast and loose with these rules and standards.”

Ms Debbonaire said it was Mr Johnson’s responsibility not only to avoid knowingly misleading Parliament, but also to correct inaccurate statements as soon as possible after realizing they were misleading.

Liberal Democrat cabinet spokeswoman Christine Jardine demanded to know how much taxpayer money was spent on the advice.

“People are tired of these costly attempts by this government to fabricate ways for Boris Johnson to evade all the consequences of his actions,” Ms Jardine said.

“The government needs to own up to the cost of this legal advice and stop expecting taxpayers to foot the bill for Conservative foolishness. The next Prime Minister must allow this investigation to continue untouched by the Conservative chumocracy.

. Inquiry Boris Johnson would be found illegal by the courts claims lawyer senior

. Boris Johnsons investigation ruled unlawful courts senior lawyer claims

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