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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

And now the cover-up?

As if the blatant flouting of lockdown rules while people are dying, without access to their relatives, isn't bad enough, the Independent reports that Downing Street staff were advised to “clean up” their phones by removing information that could suggest lockdown parties were held at No 10.

The paper refers to two sources, who claim a senior member of staff told them it would be a “good idea” to remove any messages implying that they had attended or were even aware of anything that could “look like a party”:

The “clean-up” suggestion was made early last month after the first reports emerged of parties at Downing Street, the sources allege.

One said they were “told to clean up their phone just in case” they had to hand it in to the investigation.

A second said: “I was being leant on [during the discussion with a senior colleague] and told to get rid of anything that could look bad.”

Both sources told The Independent they felt under pressure to delete communications and images.

The claims that a senior member of staff directed junior colleagues to remove potential evidence contradicts an email, also sent in December, that instructed staff not to destroy any material that could prove pertinent to an investigation, criminal or otherwise.

This was meant to refer to emails, WhatsApp messages, and calendar invitations, but it was allegedly not observed by some staff, many of whom conducted discussions via WhatsApp on their personal phones as well as work devices.

Personal phones cannot be accessed by Ms Gray’s investigation unless staff volunteer them. However, staff can be forced to hand over workplace handsets.

With many staff who attended lockdown-busting events no longer working at No 10, and others having wiped messages from their phones, it will be hard for Ms Gray to gather all available evidence of wrongdoing, sources claim.

Emails at No 10 are automatically deleted after 90 days for security reasons. This is also the case in some other sensitive government departments but not all.

Ultimately, deleted emails can be recovered from servers, but this is far more challenging than accessing historic messages in some other departments, according to people familiar with the process.

In fact it is not that hard to recover deleted emails, but that is hardly the point. If this is true then heads need to roll.
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