In July the UK Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee published a long awaited report on Russia, in which they found that the UK intelligence community had failed to investigate the effect of Russian interference in the EU Referendum in 2016, and called on the Government to rectify this oversight by carrying out a full inquiry into the matter and then take action by implementing a new legislative framework based on the inquiry's findings. However, the Government's response was to decline the suggestion as they argued that there was no evidence that any such interference had taken place. This has, in some circles, raised questions regarding whether that evidence was not uncovered for lack of notice or for lack of interest. If it were the case that the UK intelligence services were genuinely caught unawares or failed to note the significance of their intelligence then that would be regrettable and an inquiry would inform structural changes which would prevent such a failure occurring again. However, were it the case that the UK Government instructed or indicated to the UK intelligence community that such an investigation was undesirable, then any independent inquiry of the matter would surely result in negative reviews of the Government's handling of the matter.
A group of MPs and Lords has now taken the unusual step of implementing legal proceedings against Boris Johnson personally along with the UK Government for what they state to be the failure to fulfill the Government's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3 of which places governments under an obligation to ensure that all elections are genuinely free.
The judicial review application claims that a "considerable and growing body of evidence" exists that indicates that Russia has previously involved itself in foreign elections. The 2016 US Presidential Election probably represents the most infamous of such interference operations and was the subject of the Mueller Report, which was released three years after the aforementioned election and was the subject of much party political bombast when the report's author was called to Capitol Hill to answer questions about its findings, which demonstrated that Russia had clearly and intentionally gone to great lengths to smear Hillary Clinton and sway public opinion in the direction of the current US President: Donald Trump.
The application is supported by a witness statement from Lord Ricketts' who served as the Government's National Security Advisor between 2010 and 2012 and was also the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. In his statement Ricketts expresses his surprise at the lack of interest in identifying evidence of Russian interference or undertaking a thorough investigation of the possibility of interference in elections more generally.
The Government will be required to submit a response within three weeks of the date of the application, and a hearing is likely to take place towards the middle of 2021.