Britain's High Court ruled Thursday that the Cabinet Office must provide former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's WhatsApp messages to the government COVID-19 inquiry. File Photo via Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/UPI | License Photo
July 6 (UPI) -- All of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's WhatsApp messages must be turned over to the government's official COVID-19 inquiry following a Thursday ruling by the High Court.
The court ruling said that the WhatsApp messages requested by COVID-19 Inquiry Chair Heather Hallett "relate to a matter in question at the inquiry" despite challenges by the Cabinet Office which said that turning over the entirety of the messages would include information that was "unambiguously irrelevant."
Thursday's ruling said the presence of irrelevant information did not invalidate the request for the messages but rather that the irrelevant material may be redacted.
Johnson is being investigated for allegedly holding parties while prime minister during Britain's COVID-19 lockdown.
The court noted that since the documents included WhatsApp messages from a group chat coordinating the British government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as messages exchanged between Ministers and advisers who were dealing with the pandemic that the messages sought were "very likely to contain information" about the related decision-making.
Britain's Cabinet Office said it will comply fully with the court ruling, which includes a mechanism to filter irrelevant information from the WhatsApp messages requested.
"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," the office said in a statement on Twitter.
Thursday's ruling, however, offered the Cabinet Office the opportunity to issue another challenge that it is "unreasonable to produce material" that isn't related to the inquiry.
The British government launched the unprecedented legal action against its own inquiry after Johnson's messages were subpoenaed and the deadline to provide them had passed.
Johnson had said he would bypass the Cabinet Office and send his messages directly to Hallett, but the inquiry was prevented from accessing the messages until the high court delivered its ruling as the Cabinet Office's lawyers named Johnson as an interested party.
In June, a parliamentary panel concluded that Johnson had intentionally misled the House of Commons when he told it there had been no lockdown parties in Downing Street.