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Hanslope Park disclosures

The Mau Mau case led to the discovery and release of thousands of formerly secret files held by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) at its archives at Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes.

These secret files had been evacuated out of Kenya before independence as they were deemed too sensitive to be allowed to fall into the hands of an independent Kenyan Government.

Professor David Anderson had found papers in the archives which referred to the secret archive of secret documents from Kenya and referred to them in his first witness statement in the case. As a result the Government was obliged to search for the missing archive which was discovered in 2011.

The documents proved to be an important addition to the documentary record which was already publicly available at the British National Archives in Kew, and the Kenyan National Archives in Nairobi.

They provided many hitherto unseen documents which described in detail the systemic torture of detainees during the Emergency, and the knowledge of those abuses by British Government officials in London and Nairobi.

This included correspondence between the British Government and the colonial administration, and internal colonial administration correspondence and minutes of meetings at every level of government.

The documents were reviewed by the claimants’ expert historians and teams of researchers and lawyers. Further expert statements were then served in the case summarising the new evidence which had emerged through the Hanslope disclosure.

The documents proved critical to the claimants’ case on the issue of limitation in October 2012.

Mr Justice McCombe, now Lord Justice McCombe, held that the wealth of documentary evidence now available meant that a fair trial could be held over 50 years after the events in question in large part because of the vast documentary trail of evidence which was available to the Court.

The Hanslope Park files also included secret papers from 37 other ex-colonial territories which are slowly being released into the public domain for the first time and which has stimulated new research into British colonial rule around the world.

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