Covid Inquiry lawyer forced to backtrack after making false claim while grilling Boris Johnson

​Hugo Keith

Hugo Keith KC was grilling the former PM

Covid Inquiry
George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 06/12/2023

- 15:12

Boris Johnson sat down to give evidence for the first time today

The lead lawyer in the Covid enquiry was forced to backtrack during the hearing today after making a misleading statement on the UK's death rate.

Hugo Keith was grilling former PM Boris Johnson on his first day of giving evidence.

Keith made a comment about the UK being top of the table for excess deaths.

However, Johnson was quick to query the statistics.

WATCH NOW: Barrister and writer Steven Barrett says Covid Inquiry is 'pre-determined'

Keith said: "The evidence before M'Lady is that the United Kingdom had one of the highest rates of excess deaths in Europe. Almost all other Western European countries had a lower level of excess deaths. Italy was tragically in a worse position than the United Kingdom."

At this point, Johnson interrupted saying: "I don't wish to contradict you Mr Keith but the evidence ONS data put us at about 16th or 19th in a table of 33."

Keith then corrected himself, saying: "In Western Europe, we were one of the worst off, if not the second worst off... why do you think we had the rate of excess deaths in this country that we ultimately did?"

Johnson issued a fiery rebutle, adding: "As I say, I think the statistics vary and I think that every country struggled with a new pandemic and I think the UK, from the evidence that I have seen, was well down the world table."


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was taking questions for the enquiry

Covid-19 Enquiry

The claim by Keith was contradicted by barrister and writer Steven Barrett who told GB News: "I found myself getting irritated by the KC, which is odd because I don't have a political position on Covid or lockdowns.

"It is just how he is questioning is not neutral...with that event, he has been caught out red-handed.

"He keeps doing a trick that is very irritating and wrong...every time he says there is evidence before M'lady, well, M'lady hasn't reached any conclusions on the evidence because the enquiry hasn't finished which means none of that has any extra validity.

"So why is he getting to pick and choose which of the bits of evidence before her are compelling and the only reason I can think of is the end point is pre-determined."

Figures of cumulative number of deaths in Europe

Figures of cumulative number of deaths in Europe

Our World In Data

He added: "I suspect we could write this report now. And given I am neutral on all of this, the only point I can make is would save a lot of money if we wrote the report now."

The former PM's evidence was also interrupted by protesters who heckled the hearing.

Baroness Heather Hallett was forced to intervene to remove the protester, saying: "If you don't sit down I'm going to ask the ushers to get you to leave."

Johnson responded: "I understand the feelings of the victims and their families and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and the suffering of those victims and their families."

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