Johnny Mercer Afghanistan inquiry decision postponed until after Election Day

Johnny Mercer at the inquiry
-Credit: (Image: Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan)

Plymouth's Moor View MP and Veteran's Minister Johnny Mercer will have to wait until after the General Election to know whether his challenge to an order to hand over evidence to the Afghanistan war crimes inquiry will stave off a potential prison sentence.

Mr Mercer was served with a Section 21 notice on March 13, compelling him to hand over the names, which the chairman of the Afghanistan Inquiry, Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, insisted will be "treated in confidence". In the order, the chairman said the consequences of failing to comply without reasonable excuse would be "a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine."

Sir Charles also said the High Court could enforce the order through contempt of court proceedings, which "may result in imprisonment".


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The Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View - who is currently on the General Election campaign trail - submitted an application to the probe on April 3, in which he argued he was either unable to comply with the order, or it was not reasonable for him to comply with it.

The chairman of the Afghanistan Inquiry, Sir Charles Haddon-Cave initially gave Mr Mercer until April 5 to provide a witness statement containing the names having initially told the Veterans Minister his decision to "refuse to answer legitimate questions... at a public inquiry" were "disappointing... surprising... and completely unacceptable".

Chairman of the Afghanistan Inquiry Sir Charles Haddon-Cave
Chair of the Afghanistan Inquiry Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London -Credit:PA Wire/PA Images

This was extended to 4pm on May 8 for Mr Mercer to argue why he should not hand over the names.

A spokesperson for the Afghanistan Inquiry has now announced that due to the call for a General Election by Rishi Sunak, the chairman had decided that the June 3 open hearing, which was set to hear from MP Ben Wallace, former Secretary of State for Defence, would now be postponed.

Similarly, the chairman's decision on Mr Mercer's challenge would be "made and published" following the General Election.

The spokesperson said: "Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement, we are now in a pre-election period. The Chair of the Inquiry, the Rt Hon. Lord Justice Haddon-Cave has decided that next Monday's [3 June] OPEN hearing, when the Inquiry was due to hear evidence from the Rt Hon. Ben Wallace, should be postponed. The Inquiry will reschedule this OPEN hearing in due course.

"For the same reason, the Chair has also decided to postpone his final determination relating to the application to set aside the s.21 notice issued to the Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer. The determination will be made and published after 4 July 2024."

The inquiry is investigating whether British special forces murdered civilians and unarmed people on night raids in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.

Mr Mercer served with a Special Boat Service (SBS) task force in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

He previously told the inquiry that he had received a direct account from a serving member of the SBS who said he had been asked to carry a "drop weapon" - which he explained were non-Nato weapons carried by UK Special Forces units that could be planted on the body of someone killed during a mission, to falsely suggest the unarmed victim had posed a threat to British troops.

Mr Mercer also refused to reveal to the inquiry the name of the SBS member asked to carry a drop weapon.

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