Climategate: confusion over the law in email case

Telegraph
30.01.2010
By Christopher Booker

The Information Commission claims it is powerless to bring charges over the Climatic Research Unit ‘conspiracy’, says Christopher Booker

There is something very odd indeed about the statement by the Information Commission on its investigation into “Climategate”, the leak of emails from East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. Gordon Smith, the deputy commissioner, confirms that the university’s refusal to answer legitimate inquiries made in 2007 and 2008 was an offence under S.77 of the Information Act. But he goes on to claim that the Commission is powerless to bring charges, thanks to a loophole in the law – “because the legislation requires action within six months of the offence taking place”.

Careful examination of the Act, however, shows that it says nothing whatever about a time limit. The Commission appears to be trying to confuse this with a provision of the Magistrates Act, that charges for an offence cannot be brought more than six months after it has been drawn to the authorities’ attention – not after it was committed. In this case, the Commission only became aware of the offence two months ago when the emails were leaked – showing that the small group of British and American scientists at the top of the IPCC were discussing with each other and with the university ways to break the law, not least by destroying evidence, an offence in itself.

The Commission is thus impaled on a hook of its own devising. By admitting that serious offences were committed, it is now legally obliged to bring charges. And if these were brought under the 1977 Criminal Law Act, alleging that the offences amounted to a conspiracy to defy the law, there is no time limit anyway.

The real mystery therefore is how the Commission came to misread the very Act which brought it into being. Undoubtedly a successful prosecution involving such world-ranking scientists would be extraordinarily embarrassing, not just to the Government but to the entire global warming cause. So what has persuaded the Commission not to do its duty?

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