BEREAVED families of British soldiers killed in Iraq have threatened court action against Sir John Chilcot, the man charged with leading the inquiry into the conflict, over the continuing failure to publish his report.
Work on the inquiry began in 2009, overseen by five members of a panel, and the last hearings took place in 2011. Former civil servant Sir Chilcot has said the publication delay is due to time given to allow those who may have been criticised in the findings to write their responses.
But lawyers acting on behalf of 29 soldiers’ families say he has acted unlawfully in refusing to set a deadline for the report’s release.
They have written to him calling for a publication date of before the end of the year to be put in place, or they will take their case to the High Court.
One of the lawyers, Mathew Jury, said the prolonged process had compounded the families’ suffering.
Reg Keys, whose son Tom died in Iraq in 2003, told the BBC on Thursday (August 13): “We want closure on this. It has to be done fairly and it has to be done right, but he’s had time enough now.”
Regarding witnesses’ responses, Keys, who stood as an anti-war candidate in Tony Blair’s constituency in the 2005 general election, said: “Give them a deadline, give them three months, if they don’t respond, publish anyway.”
The procedure of allowing those who are likely to have been criticised in a report the chance to see extracts and make a response is known as the ‘Maxwell process,’ after the disgraced newspaper owner Robert Maxwell, about whose business practices the Department of Trade and Industry published a highly critical report in 1969.
Maxwell sued the DTI, and a judge ruled that in publishing without a rejoinder, the government department’s actions were almost akin to killing off Maxwell’s business.