Relatives denounce Chilcot statement delay

Sir John Chilcot. Picture: PA
Sir John Chilcot. Picture: PA
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THE mother of a 19-year-old Scottish soldier killed in the Iraq War has rejected a statement by Sir John Chilcot explaining the reasons for the delay of his report into the conflict – and warned that relatives of the dead will go to the courts to force its publication.

Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon died in a bomb attack in 2004, was one of a number of relatives of service personnel killed in the Iraq War who made it clear their patience had run out over the failure to publish the report.

It came as Sir John issued a statement again defying calls for the report to be published, insisting that the process needed to be completed.

The inquiry chairman said he understood the “anguish” of families who lost loved ones in the war, which began in 2003, but argued that the inquiry was “unprecedented” in its scope.

But Ms Gentle responded: “Chilcot says he understands the anguish of the families, but he’s not the one going to bed and having nightmares, dreaming about it every night.

“It’s gone on too long. The families have handed in a letter and our lawyers are seeing what they can do now.”

Sir John also defended the controversial “Maxwellisation” process, whereby the inquiry seeks responses from everyone facing criticism before its conclusions are published.

The statement came amid renewed pressure to explain why the report has yet to emerge, six years after it was first commissioned by former prime minister Gordon Brown.

It has been reported that the inquiry will severely criticise a wide range of former ministers and civil servants, not just former prime minister Tony Blair and his close advisers.

In his statement, Sir John said: “It is critically important that the report should be fair to all who participated in the conflict and to those who bore the responsibility of taking decisions.

“In its scope and length, this is an inquiry mandate for which there is no precedent.

“Given the scale of the task of assembling a reliable account of a nine-year period and drawing conclusions on a wide range of issues, it became apparent as the work proceeded that the report would have to be very long and would take a considerable time to produce.”

Reg Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed in Iraq in 2003, said: “He [Sir John] has had adequate funding, that delay is borderline unlawful, so we will seek a judicial review to see if the courts can press Sir John under the legal channels for a timeframe to complete before the end of this year.”

Clare Short, Labour’s international development secretary at the time of the war, said she did not believe the report was being held up by Maxwellisation and claimed Sir John was having to redraft the report as the current version is “very poor”.

SNP defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara MP said: “The inquiry has been plagued by continuous delays and enough is enough – the report needs to be published immediately.”