Families threatening action over Chilcot’s report

Sir John Chilcot: His inquiry began six years ago in 2009. Picture: PA
Sir John Chilcot: His inquiry began six years ago in 2009. Picture: PA
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FAMILIES of soldiers killed in the Iraq war will take legal action if the Chilcot Inquiry is not published by the end of the year, relatives said yesterday.

The move was announced by Reg Keys, whose son, Lance Corporal Tom Keys, was killed in Iraq in 2003 aged 20.

Mr Keys also criticised inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot for not understanding the feelings of the bereaved.

He was backed by Rose ­Gentle, from Glasgow, whose son Gordon, 19, was killed in a bomb attack in Iraq in 2004. She said the families were “ready for the truth” as she voiced support for legal action over the delay in publishing the Chilcot Inquiry findings.

Anti-war campaigner Ms Gentle believes the bereaved have struggled to move on with their lives due to the delay.

She said: “We’ve still got this thing hanging over our heads.

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“We can’t get closure, it’s been going on too long now. It’s hard for all the families, we really just want it over and done with. I would definitely support legal action if there’s not a date given of when the report is going to be published.”

Ms Gentle became a high-profile campaigner following the death of her Royal Highland Fusilier son in a roadside bomb blast in Basra, southern Iraq.

An inquest heard he might have survived the attack had his Land Rover been fitted with vital bomb-disabling equipment but an order to collect the kit had not been passed to his unit.

She set up the Military Families Against The War group and was present at the inquiry on the day former prime minister Tony Blair gave evidence. She said: “We are ready to find out the truth. Why did my son and others go there? We want to know.”

Mr Keys is part of a group of 29 families who have issued a legal ultimatum to Sir John, believing failure to complete an inquiry in “reasonable” time is open to a challenge in the courts.

Much of the anger is focused on the “Maxwellisation” process, which gives the opportunity to individuals facing possible criticism in the report to respond and is holding up publication.

The delay is said to be a growing source of frustration for Prime Minister David Cameron, who has asked for a timetable for publication be set out “pretty soon”, but Whitehall sources do not expect one before parliament returns in September.

Sir John insisted last month that his inquiry – launched in 2009 – was making “significant progress”, although he could not set a publication date.

But Mr Keys said the families need closure and called on Sir John to publish by the end of 2015 or face legal action.

He criticised Sir John for failing to grasp the gravity of the war and insisted that there is no legal requirement for the inquiry to go through the Maxwellisation process.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I think what Sir John doesn’t understand is the strength of feeling amongst the bereaved.

“I think what Sir John has to bear in mind now is that we want closure on this, it has to be done fair, it has to be done right.

“But he’s had time enough now and he’s not imposing deadlines on this and that’s where our argument is, we want to give a deadline now, by the end of the year or legal action will be following.”