By John Helmer, Moscow
The public inquiry opened in London on March 17 by Lord Anthony Hughes to investigate allegations of the Novichok death of Dawn Sturgess in July 2018 will employ a secret lawyer to make sure Sergei and Yulia Skripal will not appear; will not answer questions in public; and will not reveal what they know to challenge the British government’s version of the Novichok plot perpetrated by Russian assassins acting on Kremlin orders.
Adam Chapman was appointed last week by Hughes, who is heading the public inquiry which has replaced the inquest into the death of Sturgess, allegedly from Novichok poisoning. The official document naming Chapman and his London law firm Kingsley Napley was published on April 4.
Chapman is currently absent from his office on sabbatical leave; he and two of his assistants, Jo Dorling and Katie Baker, do not respond to emails. Chapman, the assistants, and the spokesman for the Kingsley Napley firm, Michael Rosen, refuse to confirm that Chapman has met with the Skripals or communicated with them in any fashion. The lawyers have not verified that either Sergei Skripal or Yulia Skripal or both of them want Chapman as their representative in the Hughes investigation. The first public witnesses aren’t expected to testify in front of Hughes until 2023.
The government’s payment to Chapman to act for the Skripals makes it appear they are alive and not in prison. Chapman’s secretiveness indicates otherwise. Speaking this week for Chapman and Kingsley Napley, Rosen said: “we will not be commenting on this matter.”
Following the death of Sturgess in Salisbury District Hospital on July 8, 2018, the Wiltshire county coroner David Ridley and his successor appointed by the Cabinet Office in London, Dame Heather Hallett, a secret services consultant, have refused to interview or allow any involvement of the Skripals in their investigations. Read the only book in print on the case.
Left to right: Lord Anthony Hughes; Sergei Skripal; Dawn Sturgess; Sturgess’s counsel (barrister) in the Hughes inquiry, Michael Mansfield QC.
Hughes was appointed and opened his inquiry in March. For details, read this.
At his first public hearing on March 25 Hughes announced that a lawyer had been appointed by the Home Office to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal — together, not individually. Hughes’s staff refused to identify the lawyer by name at the time. Following a closed-door hearing, Hughes then released Chapman’s name.
Sergei Skripal has not been seen in public since the day of the first alleged Novichok attack, March 4, 2018. He has not been heard on the telephone by family members since June 26, 2019. Yulia Skripal was last seen in a British and US-directed interview at a US bomber base in May 2018; her last telephone call was heard on November 20, 2020.
For excerpts of Yulia Skripal’s conversation about her living conditions and her father’s health, see.
In the seventeen months since then, there has been no independent evidence that they are alive; if they are alive, they are being held incommunicado. How then can Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal have willingly agreed to being represented by Chapman and Kingsley Tapley?
The law firm advertises itself under the logo, “When it matters most”. Chapman advertises that he has spent much of his career as a lawyer for British government agencies and the UK Attorney-General. He and his supervising partner, Sophie Kemp, have acted in public inquiries involving the secret services.
Chapman was contacted this week by telephone. He did not answer and a telephone message was left for him. An email was sent to the address confirmed by his receptionist. Chapman was asked: “1. Have you met face to face with Sergei Skripal? If not, how has he communicated his instructions? 2. Have you met face to face with Yulia Skripal? If not, how has she communicated her instructions? 3. How do you address the possibility of a conflict of interest or instructions between them?”
In reply, this misspelled email was received:
Follow-up emails to Baker, also absent from the London office, and to another of Chapman’s assistants, Jo Dorling, were sent, asking the same questions. They refused to answer.
The head of communications for Kingsley Tapley, Michael Rosen, was contacted and asked at first to identify who was the firm’s representative for the Skripals. He refused to say. A follow-up email produced the reply:
By this time, as Rosen was refusing to identify Chapman, Lord Hughes’s staff had already published Chapman’s name. Kingsley Tapley were trying to keep secret what had already become public.
Rosen is not a lawyer. He is a PR man who advertises his services “with over 20 years’ experience creating high impact external and internal communications programmes – encompassing copy/speechwriting, PR, content marketing, website and intranet development. I also work with a variety of specialist experts to provide website, branding, print and design services. If you think that I may be able to help you, please do get in touch on 07870 793669.”
For four years Rosen (right) was the spokesman for the Israeli ambassador in London where, Rosen says, he was employed for “communication
and advocacy of Israeli policy, and the strengthening of bilateral ties with the UK in an extremely challenging, complex and media-intense environment…[and] managed UK media relations in response to events in the Middle East, working with all major media outlets to communicate messages quickly and effectively.”
After Kingsley Tapley failed at keeping the Skripal secret, Rosen was asked to clarify whether “the firm wishes to conceal that Adam Chapman has been officially appointed representative of Sergei and Yulia Skripal; that the firm wishes to conceal that this engagement as representative was made during Mr Chapman’s absence on sabbatical leave from the firm; and that the firm wishes to conceal that Mr Chapman has not received instructions directly from either Mr Skripal or Miss Skripal or both of them, that he has not met them face to face, nor communicated with them to verify their wishes?”
“Please explain how in principle or in practice or in law Kingsley Napley can accept a secret engagement as representative in an open public inquiry, and act without instructions from the persons the firm has been identified officially as representing?”
Rosen has not responded.
The text of Hughes’s order identifying the lawyers representing the “core participants” in the inquiry lists two lawyers for each – counsel (barrister) to speak at hearings, either in public or behind closed doors; and solicitor to conduct interviews, gather evidence, prepare papers, and direct the counsel.
The official record shows that an exception has been made for the Skripals. They will not be represented by counsel. This indicates that unlike any of the others involved in the Novichok investigation, Sergei and Yulia Skripal will not testify in public themselves, nor through a mouthpiece.
Hughes was asked through his staff solicitor Martin Smith: “The Skripals are the only core participants to lack counsel. What is the reason for that?” “We understand that the Skripals have not yet appointed counsel,” Smith replied, “and there is no requirement for any core participant to do so.”