High Court gives green light for #GoodLawProject’s Government private email and WhatsApp challenge

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The High Court has granted Good Law Project permission to proceed on all grounds in their challenge against the Government’s use of private email and messaging apps following a hearing yesterday (Monday 25 October).

The development means Good Law Project will be able to highlight the inadequacy of the Government’s policies on private emails and messaging apps. The High Court will also hear evidence of routine breaches of these policies by the Prime Minister and other senior decision-makers. 

So far, Good Law Project has uncovered that Boris Johnson, Trade Minister Greg Hands, PPE Tsar Lord Deighton, disgraced ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock and ex-Health Minister Lord Bethell have breached their own guidance using private email accounts or Whatsapp to discuss Government business of national importance – from the spread of Covid-19 in care homes, to the award of lucrative contracts.

Government has policies about the use of private emails and messaging apps, but Good Law Project’s lawyers think they are unlikely to be fit for purpose because it fails to set out when it is acceptable for politicians to use their own accounts and, if used, how any information from those accounts is preserved. 

If the legal action is successful, it could force the Government to put in place proper policies to close this accountability gap for good.

Rachel Smethers, Head of Communications at Good Law Project, said: 

“Conducting Government business outside of official channels flies in the face of Ministers’ legal obligations to preserve official records about key decisions, and severely undermines their ability to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and duty of transparency to the Courts.

“How can anyone be certain that critical information is not being lost, or even deleted? Government has been evasive for months, but now we’ve been given the green light on all grounds, we will make sure they cannot shy away from the spotlight.”

The Judicial Review will be heard over three days alongside another case brought by The Citizens and Foxglove, which tackles some of the same grounds as Good Law Project’s claim. The court date is yet to be announced.