The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has withdrawn its planned legal action to force the Government to release a report on purported Russian interference in the UK.
The non-profit news outfit said it had been unable to find someone willing to provide a key witness statement for the case, which it claimed would have given it a “fighting chance of success”.
Although there has been no indication of the precise contents of the report, it will assess the threat posed by Moscow to Britain’s democratic processes following an 18-month inquiry into illicit Russian activities in Britain.
Bureau editor Rachel Oldroyd said: “I am so frustrated that we are unable to take the action we feel is so necessary and which the public deserve.
“It should be up to the courts to decide whether the Prime Minister should have released the report, which is so clearly in the public interest.”
The Bureau launched the action on 13 November by sending a legal letter to Boris Johnson stating its belief that it was the politician’s common law duty to release the Intelligence and Security Committee report.
The Bureau had hoped to bring an urgent application for a judicial review in the courts so the delayed report could be released before polls open for the snap general election on 12 December.
But it said last night that its legal team, including four barristers from three chambers, had decided the case would need a witness statement confirming what ISC chairman Dominic Grieve said in the House of Commons when he called for the report’s release.
The Conservative MP said the report had been sent to Johnson for final approval on 17 October and criticised a “plainly bogus” explanation for its release being delayed.
The Bureau approached “many people” who could potentially give such a statement, including Grieve, but said that none had felt prepared to give it. Its lawyers therefore “regretfully concluded that we do not have a strong enough case”.
The Russia report is not expected to be published for several months.
The Bureau had raised funds from more than 2,000 members of the public to fund the legal action.
It said that while all donors have been given the chance to have their money back, it plans to use the unclaimed money for further investigations into foreign interference.
“The Bureau is committed to reporting on Russian interference in UK institutions, including on this ISC report, and intends to publish more stories soon,” it said in a statement.
“The Bureau will also consider further legal action in the future, where appropriate.”
A report into Russian interference in the US presidential election in 2016 found illegal interference from Moscow occurred in a “sweeping and systemic fashion”, according to special counsel Robert Mueller.