Bureau unable to advance legal challenge for Russia report

The Bureau is disappointed to announce that it is unable to bring a judicial review to secure the release of the parliamentary report into Russian interference in the UK.

The Bureau has been working with a top calibre legal team, including four barristers from three different chambers, for two weeks building the case to challenge Boris Johnson’s decision to block release of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report in the run up to the UK’s general election.

The legal team concluded that in order to take the case forward we needed a witness statement confirming what Dominic Grieve, the chairman of the ISC, had said in the House of Commons on November 5. Had we gained this statement we were ready to immediately issue proceedings and were advised that we had a fighting chance of success.

We approached many people, including Grieve. Despite efforts from all involved to find a way to give this statement, no one felt able to provide it. We have worked every day since to find a way forward, but without a key witness testimony our lawyers have regretfully concluded that we do not have a strong enough case.

The case was aimed at forcing the prime minister to release a report compiled by the ISC which examined the extent of Russian interference in and influence on our democracy and democractic processes.

“We are extremely grateful to all the members of the public who backed our attempt to get the Russia report published, and gave us the support and financial resources to get it this far,” the Bureau’s editor Rachel Oldroyd said.

“I am so frustrated that we are unable to take the action we feel is so necessary and which the public deserve. It should be up to the courts to decide whether the prime minister should have released the report, which is so clearly in the public interest.”

The Bureau has reported on Russian influence on our political parties in the past and believed the public had a right to see the report before they went to the polls. Many journalists and several politicians had been trying to get the report into the public domain.

With the report blocked by the prime minister the Bureau felt the last option was to try to get the courts to decide whether Johnson’s claim that he followed standard procedure was correct, a statement that our reporting suggests is wrong.

The Bureau launched its legal action on November 13 by sending a legal letter to the prime minister stating that we believed it was his common law duty to release the report.

The team would not have been able to move forward without funds, which were generously provided by more than 2,000 members of the public. The Bureau said it would use any excess funds for further investigations on foreign influence, but all of those who donated to the action have been contacted with an offer to return their donation to them.

The Bureau is committed to reporting on Russian interference in UK institutions, including on this ISC report, and intends to publish more stories soon. The Bureau will also consider further legal action in the future, where appropriate.

Comments

  • Preston Witts

    It's a dreadful shame that the BIJ has been unable to proceed with its legal bid to get the Intelligence Committee's report published. One can only hope it gets leaked - preferably several days before polling day! I was slightly baffled by the requirement for witness statements given that Dominic Grieve's statement in the House of Commons on 5th November, for instance, is recorded in Hansard for the world at large see (and, presumably, in full colour on the BBC's Parliament Channel). I realise that the BIJ has been taking top-notch legal advice, so there is obviously a good reason for withdrawing from the action. Does it require the likes of Mr Grieve to provide confirmation in writing that this is what he said? That does seem a bit odd, given that there is a perfectly good and accurate record of what he said which is already in the public domain. Can anyone please explain this to me?

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  • Frankie Goodway in reply to Preston Witts

    Hi Preston,
    I'm afraid that what was said in Parliament, and recorded in Hansard, was not admissible as sworn evidence, even though it was in the public domain.

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  • Preston Witts

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