We ask government for urgent explanation over deleting sensitive Number 10 WhatsApp messages

Bosses at Downing Street pressured government officials to delete WhatsApp messages about the drinks party held there in May 2020, during the national lockdown, according to a front-page report in the Independent.

Not only are these messages vital to the probe led by senior civil servant Sue Gray into parties taking place at Downing Street and elsewhere in government, they will also be important evidence to the full inquiry into the government’s handling of the entire Covid pandemic, given their potential impact on public trust.

Frankly, what’s the point in holding either public inquiry if bosses are ordering staff to delete key evidence the moment they are announced?

These issues are exactly why we’re so proud to be supporting The Citizens’ legal case to ban disappearing messages, like WhatsApp, across government.

The Independent story is directly relevant to this case, which is why we have sent a legal letter to the government warning them that any order to delete WhatsApp messages about Downing Street drinks parties would be unlawful – as would any deletions that occurred as a result.

Deleting these messages would break the government’s own Number 10 WhatsApp policy – which we revealed during our permission hearing in October – and also violate the government’s legal obligations under The Citizens’ judicial review.

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