Complaint on delay to the consents to prosecute SSD & Mssrs May & Sir Michael Fallon

29th August 2017

Dear Director General of the AGO,

I refer to the Head of Business Support’s letter to Mr Manson dated 11
August 2017, which answered PICAT’s complaint dated 24 July 2017 about
the AGO’s long delay in responding to our application for consent to
prosecute. I also refer to the AGO’s email to myself dated 17 August
2017, which advised a further delay to the end of September 2017 in our
receiving the Attorney General’s decision.

I am writing under your Complaints Procedure to formally express our
dissatisfaction with the AGO’s answer. The AGO’s letter of 11 August
2017 states that the action taken by the AGO has been within a
time-scale that reflects the volume of material to be considered.
However, it gives little detail to substantiate this opinion. I set out
below why I believe the time-scale is excessive.

Knighton Action for Peace and Action first applied for the A-G’s consent
to prosecute on 19 February 2016, more than 18 months ago. Their
application contained a “Summary of Evidence and Other Materials the
Prosecutor Intends to Rely On”. Most of the documents in the Summary are
open source and in the public domain, which explains why hard copies of
most of the documents were not provided. Similar information was
provided by the other four claimants between February and June 2016,
Nicol Harlow’s letter of 11 August 2017 acknowledges that work was
undertaken by the AGO to review all of this information when it was
received. On 20 July 2016 the AGO’s office requested more information
and stated that they would endeavour to ensure that a decision on the
granting of consent would be made within 28 days of their letter. PICAT
provided the requested information on 27 July 2016, which included hard
copies of many of the documents referred to in the claimants’ Summary of
Evidence etc. Accordingly the volume of material provided by PICAT at
that time should not have surprised the AGO, consisting of some 250 hard
copy pages.

On 3 August 2016 the AGO wrote to Mr Manson and advised that they would
handle the applications by the five PICAT groups as a single request for
consent. The letter also addressed a number of issues, which they
required PICAT to address. Additionally they asked what further material
PICAT intended to submit. Mr Manson responded to theses issues on 6
September 2016 but in doing so emphasised that it did not change PICAT’s
position or the materials relied upon. At about this time PICAT decided
to instruct Counsel to represent them and on 1 October 2016 Counsel
wrote and addressed the issues that had been raised by the AGO on 3
August 2016. Counsel’s letter referenced the documents that had been
previously submitted by PICAT but did not submit any new documents. On
22 November 2016 and again on 13 January 2017 the AGO asked PICAT to
submit a draft indictment and to ensure that PICAT had submitted all the
evidence that it proposed to rely upon. I informed the AGO on 26 January
2017 that PICAT had been advised that a draft indictment for a private
prosecution is not required. My letter also gave links to two further
pieces of information. I would add at this point that PICAT strongly
believes that the AGO asked us to provide much more information than is
strictly necessary to enable them to fulfil the A-G’s duty of consent.
Nevertheless while the delay was extended by this stance I would like to
make it clear that it does not form part of this complaint. The AGO
insisted that a draft indictment was required and on 4 February 2017
PICAT’s Counsel submitted a two page draft Indictment.

The matter to consider, therefore, is what is a reasonable time-scale to
read, process and review a little over 250 pages of documents, including
the consideration of other materials that are in the public domain and
which an experienced officer of the AGO would be familiar with and would
not necessarily have to read again? Mr Craig Hollands of the AGO’s
Correspondence Unit assessed on 20 July 2016 that 28 days ought to be
sufficient and I do not disagree with him, particularly as at that time
the AGO had already spent several months reviewing the documents. The
situation on 1 October 2016, when according to Nicol Harlow a new
application had been submitted by PICAT, would not be much different in
that the volume of material to process at that time was similar to that
in July 2016. Albeit most of the material by October 2016 should already
have been processed by the AGO. When the draft indictment was received
by the AGO on 4 February 2017 they should have been in a position to
issue the A-G’s decision within a relatively short period of time.
However, nearly seven months have passed since then and we are still
waiting to receive the A-G’s decision. And apparently we have yet
another month to wait.

I am dissatisfied that the Head of Business Support, Nicol Harlow,
considers that the time-scale to date is acceptable. I request that you
provide us with an explanation of the extraordinary amount of time that
it has taken the AGO to get to this position. Given the importance of
the issue I am appalled that a delay of this scale has been allowed to
happen. May I request that you urge the AGO to provide the A-G’s
decision to us well before the end of September 2017.

I look forward to receiving your findings within 10 working days of this
email in accordance with your Complaints Procedure.

Yours faithfully, Angie Zelter, for the PICAT Groups.