Barrister and peer suggests Iraq Inquiry held up by legal inexperience

Lord Lester
Lord Lester

A barrister and Liberal Democrat peer has suggested that delays in the release of the Iraq Inquiry report could be credited to “a lack of legal expertise”.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a member of Blackstone Chambers, told The Times that too much time was being spent on the process of “Maxwellisation”, whereby those criticised in the report are given a chance to respond prior to publication.

In a letter to the newspaper, he wrote: “One reason for the inordinate delay in Chilcot’s case may be a lack of legal expertise about how to avoid being trapped by legalism and ensure that justice is not done to death.”

Lord Lester said he had acted on behalf of witnesses in two public inquiries who were given a much stricter time limit to raise objections to the reports.

The inquiry was launched in July 2009, but it is not yet known when its final report will be published.

Lord Lester’s intervention comes less than a week after Prime Minister David Cameron urged inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot to “get on with it” and publish the finished report.

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the delays were “immensely frustrating” and he believed the inquiry has “had plenty of time” to conduct the Maxwellisation process.

Mr Cameron also offered the government’s assistance in providing “any more resources that are needed” in order to expedite the report.

On its announcement, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the inquiry’s scope was “unprecedented”.

It was convened to consider “the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned”.

The families of British soldiers who died fighting in Iraq have warned they may take legal action against Sir John Chilcot if the report is not published by the end of this year.

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