1st day in court: evidence revealed widespread use of WhatsApp messages, message deletion and loss of crucial public records in government 

Today was day one of a three-day hearing at the London High Court into government by WhatsApp.  

The court heard how ministers and officials from the Prime Minister down have repeatedly used personal phones, email and WhatsApp to carry out government business.  

It was revealed that some of the decisions made and discussed on WhatsApp were about serious business affecting the lives of millions of people – the organisation of Test and Trace, the lack of testing in care homes and securing a strong supply of ventilators for the UK.

If records of these conversations were deleted, how can this essential evidence form part of the Covid inquiry? For example, it was revealed today that the messages the PM’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings posted online were never recorded on government systems, as required by law.

The Cummings messages will be seen by Baroness Hallett’s inquiry because they happened to be screenshotted. But how many more pieces of essential evidence that the inquiry needs to see have been lost forever? 

The government also admitted today that not one of Boris Johnson’s messages on his mobile phone prior to April 2021 were available. Almost certainly because they have been automatically deleted by WhatsApp.

The repeated loss of critical material poses a serious risk to democracy. Today in court the Citizens argued that these practices across government violate the Public Records Act 1958. 

Our democracy can only work if the decisions of those who represent us are open to scrutiny. That can’t happen if officials govern by secret WhatsApp chats that vanish into thin air. That’s why The Citizens are bringing this case and why Foxglove are supporting them.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more details on the case as it happens in court. Please join us, take action and sign the petition by hitting the link below.