British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government must hand over internal WhatsApp messages sought by its own public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic after it lost a legal battle at London’s High Court on Thursday.
Britain’s Cabinet Office had refused to provide WhatsApp messages concerning the government’s handling of the pandemic and other political issues last month, saying some of the material sought was “unambiguously irrelevant.”
The department brought a legal challenge against the inquiry’s demand, arguing the request was too broad, but its case was rejected in a written ruling on Thursday.
The government said it would comply with the decision.
Judges James Dingemans and Neil Garnham said that requests for documents by public inquiries were “bound to lead to the inclusion of some irrelevant material,” but that does not make the request unlawful.
They added that the Cabinet Office could still apply to the COVID-19 inquiry to not have to produce material which does not relate to a matter in question at the inquiry.
“The court’s judgment is a sensible resolution and will mean that the Inquiry Chair is able to see the information she may deem relevant, but we can work together to have an arrangement that respects the privacy of individuals and ensures completely irrelevant information is returned and not retained,” a government spokesperson said.
“We will comply fully with this judgment and will now work with the Inquiry team on the practical arrangements.”