Sir John Chilcot accused of showing 'contempt' for soldiers' families

Soldiers' Families Threaten to Sue Chilcot

Relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq have launched a scathing attack on the chairman of the Iraq inquiry as they warned they will press ahead with legal action if he fails to publish the report by the end of the year.

Sir John Chilcot treated families who have lost loved ones with "contempt" and acted with "astonishing" hypocrisy, the group claimed.

Lawyers representing group of relatives of 29 soldiers killed in the conflict had previously given the chairman a deadline, which expired last month, to set out a timetable for the Maxwellisation process that allows witnesses to respond to criticism before publication of the report.

The group has put its legal action on hold following Sir John's announcement that the process has now been completed but warned it will go to the High Court if plans to publish the inquiry findings by December are not set out.

"We write to you today to inform you that, in the absence of any reasonable, transparent and full explanation why you cannot, we expect you to write to the Prime Minister within one month with a date for publication, which should be by the end of the year," they wrote.

"Again, any date beyond that must be fully justified. By your own admission, now Maxwellisation is over, there is nothing to prevent you doing this. If you fail to do so, we will continue with our legal challenge."

The families said they did "not believe" that the completion of the Maxwellisation process days before they intended to launch legal action was a "coincidence" and told the Sir John they had been left "bewildered" when he refused to explain how the system was being managed.

They claimed that individuals involved who may be criticised had "seen their careers flourish while our own lives have been ruined" and accused the inquiry of giving the witnesses "every attention and possible courtesy" while the families had been "side-lined and ignored".

"While they were given the assistance of tax-payer funded government lawyers, you threatened us with costs for even daring to challenge you," they wrote.

"You claim that your Inquiry is open and fair - maybe to the Maxwellees, but not to us. What you claim and how you have treated us are quite different. It is with regret that we must tell you that such hypocrisy is astonishing."

They added: "Instead of due care and concern, we feel you have treated us with contempt."

Chilcot Report: Further Iraq Inquiry Delays Frustrate Bereaved Families