Why did the UK Home Office make no attempt to contact the Skripals’ relatives in Russia? Why does High Court judgment imply they may not even exist when they have appeared on UK TV? More bizarreness in this already very bizarre case
The Skripal case has been a strange one, even by current standards. The persistent lack of basic information that extends way beyond anything that could seem to be justified by security considerations. The conflicting accounts, the unprecedented government and media hysteria, the complete rejection of due process, and the demands for international reprisals against a sovereign country based on absurdly scant and inadequate evidence continue to be as baffling as they are dangerous.
We’ve already covered the absence of evidence and the various lies and/or misconceptions or confusions on the part of the UK government, including some of the further puzzles, raised by the High Court judgment made by Mr Justice Williams on March 22, about how much it currently knows about the alleged “nerve agent”
But there are other glaring oddnesses in Williams’ Judgment as well.
One, discussed today by James O’Neill, is the contradiction between Russia’s claims to have tried to make contact with the Skripals through formal channels and having been denied or evaded by the UK, and the UK claim to have received no such requests.
Another, related to the above, is the question of the Skripals’ relatives in Russia. This is what the Judgment says about this:
“…Neither Mr Skripal nor Ms Skripal appear to have relatives in the UK although they appear to have some relatives in Russia. The SSHD have not sought to make contact with them. Discussions have taken place with the OPCW TS about precisely what enquiries they wish to undertake. In summary the main issues are
“…Given the absence of any contact having been made with the NHS Trust by any family member, the absence of any evidence of any family in the UK and the limited evidence as to the possible existence of family members in Russia I accept that it is neither practicable nor appropriate in the special context of this case to consult with any relatives of Mr Skripal or Ms Skripal who might fall into the category identified in s.4(7)(b) of the Act.
Firstly, these statements seem to contradict each other and themselves. Do the Skripals “appear” to have relatives in Russia, or is evidence for this so “limited” it can be safely ignored? How can such a basic question be subject to such misty uncertainty?
But odder than that is the fact these allegedly theoretical and possibly non-existent or distant relatives consist of at least one niece/cousin and a mother/grandmother. Second and first degree relatives respectively.
And one of them has been interviewed by at least two different UK news outlets.
These interviews suggest this particular relative is pretty real, and not very hard to locate. If the Sun could find her on March 14, it’s hard to see how she could still be a mere thought experiment and “limited” theory for the Home Office eight days later.
So, since the implication in the judgment that these (very close) relatives are quasi hypothetical is obviously untrue, why has the Home Secretary (SSHD) not “sought to make contact with” the Skripals’ mother/grandmother and niece/cousin?
Is it because they don’t “fall into the category identified in s.4(7)(b) of the Act”
No. The “Act” being referred to is the 2005 Mental Capacity Act. S.4(7)(b) stipulates that before determining what is in an incapacitated person’s “best interests”, the person ruling (in this case Mr Justice Williams) must:
take into account, if it is practicable and appropriate to consult them, the views of anyone engaged in caring for the person or interested in his welfare
Had Mr Justice Williams not been informed that one of these relatives was so “practicable” to consult she’d recently been featured in the Murdoch press? Surely,if he knew how easy to locate they were, his judgment would have reflected the assumption a mother/grandmother,niece/cousin would at very least be “interested” in the “welfare” of Yulia and Sergey?
Do such close and easily contactable relatives really warrant being passed over simply because of “the absence of any contact having been made with the NHS Trust by any member of the family”?
I mean look, these people are in Russia. It’s possible – shocking – they don’t speak English. It’s possible they aren’t clear how to get in contact directly with a rural hospital in Wiltshire. It’s possible they tried but failed.
Would it hurt someone at the Home Office to get on the phone and check things out before assuming they just don’t care and taking the matter to court?
What’s more, far from being indifferent, Viktoria tells her interviewer she is worried about her uncle and cousin and is anxious to get information:
If this is the case, can we take it as pretty unlikely the Skripals have really made no attempt to contact the UK about their family members?
And, if you look at the wording again:
Given the absence of any contact having been made with the NHS Trust by any family member
It doesn’t actually say no contact has been made does it? It says no contact has been made with the NHS trust. This leaves the undeclared possibility there has been contact made by the Skripals with other departments of the UK state. This would broadly dovetail with claims made by the Russian foreign ministry, which, until at least March 19, has maintained its attempts to gain access to or information about the Skripals have been stonewalled.
If the Skripals have tried to gain information, either directly or through their embassy or consulate, why aren’t they being given any? Why aren’t they being consulted about the medical interventions being performed? Why has Viktoria been told so little since the poisoning, that she tells the BBC she still holds out a fanciful hope the victims may not even be Julia and Sergey?
Altogether, it seems this part of the official narrative is as confused and as hard to reconcile with reality as the clearly unwarranted claims about “novichoks.”
NOTE: The Guardian’s version of the BBC interview with Viktoria is shockingly deceptive. It omits all mention of the main point of the interview – that Viktoria is desperate for information and has received none – and contrives through this omission, and its headline (“Sergey and Yulia Skripal have slim chance of survival says niece”) to give the absolutely opposite impression – that Viktoria has been well informed, may even have seen her relatives and is predicting their small chance of survival from first hand observation. Even in the Guardian’s recent history of poor ethical choices and lies by omission, this is egregious in the extreme.