Barrister explains his investigation into Lord Bethell’s new phone

4 August 2021, 12:22

By Tim Dodd

The Good Law Project's Jolyon Maugham QC tells James O'Brien details of the investigation into Lord Bethell’s new phone.

The conversation comes after Lord Bethell replaced his personal phone after being warned by government officials that it might need to be searched to provide evidence in a judicial review, it has emerged.

This has caused "difficulty in retrieving evidence from his phone" for a court hearing over controversial contracts, Mr Maugham told LBC.

The health minister is under scrutiny for the controversial award of £85 million in contracts to Abingdon Health last year, for covid testing kits. The decision was made after a private meeting held by Lord Bethell with the firm, which he did not declare.

The Government previously admitted that some of Lord Bethell's dealings with Abingdon had been conducted via WhatsApp or text message, and were held only on his private mobile phone.

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Director of the GoodLawProject, Jolyon Maugham, told James O'Brien:

"These [contracts] involve epic amounts of public money so we need to be sure that they're not doing what Dominic Cummings admits he's done twice, which is giving contracts to his friends.

"You have a duty to account to those who give you that public money through our taxes and explain how it is that you came to award these weird and wonderful contracts to your friends or Tory donors.

"That requires that civil servants have oversight of how the contracts are being awarded, and it also requires that you don't break your phone shortly after being told it's going to be inspected."

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Mr Maugham continued: "If you deliberately destroy evidence or break your phone... it's very possible that you're committing the criminal offence of perverting the course of justice.

"Once we receive the answers to the questions that we put to the lawyers acting for the Department for Health, we will be taking a close look at whether a criminal offence has been committed."

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