© Eric Gaillard / Reuters
In a piece back in August, I drew attention to the fact that Yulia Skripal's understanding of what had happened to her - at least at that time and as far as her statement to Reuters was concerned - did not actually fit very well with the narrative of poisoning via the door handle. Here's what she said:
"I still find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that both of us were attacked. We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination [my emphasis]."
I went on to point out that according to the official narrative, which posits that Mr Skripal was attacked because he was a traitor, Yulia Skripal was not actually the target of the attack or attempted assassination. Only Mr Skripal was, and even Theresa May, in her statements to the House of Commons, in which she attempted to set out the intent and motive behind the poisoning, had nothing to say about any intent to kill Yulia. Nor, to my knowledge, has The Metropolitan Police ever suggested that she was a target for assassination. According to the official explanation, she was simply an unfortunate victim who happened to get poisoned because her father was targeted.

In that piece I also drew attention to a part of the statement released on behalf of Detective Sergeant Nicholas Bailey, on 22nd March, in which he was quoted as saying:
"I want people to focus on the investigation - not the police officer who was unfortunate enough to be caught up in it." [my emphasis].
If the idea that Yulia Skripal was a target for the attack is highly implausible, according to the official story, in the case of Mr Bailey there is no room for any doubt. According to The Metropolitan Police, Mr Bailey became poisoned as he visited Mr Skripal's house in Christie Miller Road, after he had seen the Skripals collapse on the bench. There is therefore no possibility whatsoever that those who are alleged to have contaminated the door handle could have intended to target Mr Bailey, and his statement clearly agrees with this.

Yet if we turn to the official statement made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on 5th September, in which they formally announced that they were charging two Russian nationals, Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, we find something very odd indeed:
"Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are Russian nationals, with the following offences:

- Conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal
- Attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey
- Use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act
- Causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey [my emphasis]."
I find the charge of attempted murder in the case of Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey remarkable. Even if it were proven that Petrov and Boshirov went to 47 Christie Miller Road, and there daubed "Novichok" (whatever that is) on the door (rather than being, say, 600 yards away on the Wilton Road), I am confident that there could be no possibility whatsoever of a convictions for these charges. Why not?

Primarily because the CPS's own legal guidance regarding attempted murder precludes it. Here's what they say:
"In contrast to the offence of murder, attempted murder requires the existence of an intention to kill, not merely to cause grievous bodily harm: R v Grimwood (1962) 3 All ER 285. The requisite intention to kill can be inferred by the circumstances: R v Walker and Hayles (1990) 90 Cr App R 226."
And here is some further guidance for the specific offence that the CPS have charged Boshirov and Petrov with (Attempted murder, contrary to s1(1) Criminal Attempts Act 1981):
"Where the substantive criminal offence specifically requires the consequence of an act, an attempt to commit that offence ordinarily requires proof of intent as to that consequence. The required intent for murder is either intent to kill or intent to cause really serious injury. The required consequence of the act is death. Accordingly, for a charge of attempted murder to be made out the intent which must be proved is intent to kill: see R v Whybrow (1951) 35 CAR 141.

Unlike murder, which requires an intention to kill or cause GBH, attempted murder requires evidence of an intention to kill alone. This makes it a difficult allegation to sustain and careful consideration must be given to whether on the facts a more appropriate charge would be one under s18 OAPA 1861. Another possible charge may be Making Threats to Kill. Courts will pay particular attention to counts of attempted murder and justifiably will be highly critical of any such count unless there is clear evidence of an intention to kill [my emphasis]."
I have no legal training, but if words mean anything, this all seems crystal clear. As the CPS itself says, attempted murder is a difficult allegation to prove, the reason being that for a successful prosecution of this offence, it must be shown that there was an intention to kill, and proof of the intent as to that consequence. And so the CPS, in bringing the charges against Petrov and Boshirov, are basically saying that they intended to kill Yulia Skripal, and they intended to kill Nick Bailey. Yet this is evidently not the case.

In the case of Sergei Skripal, the Government and The Met have clearly set out what they say was the motive and intent to kill. But as stated above, they have not attempted to do so in the case of Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey. One reason for this is that their own explanation for the poisoning - that it was applied to the door handle of Mr Skripal's house - simply won't allow it. If the door handle theory were true, how could it be said that they "intended to murder" Yulia Skripal? Did they even know she was there that day? And even if they did, how could they be sure that she would become contaminated? Furthermore, what was the reason for their apparent intent on her life? But even more is this the case when it comes to Nick Bailey. The chances of the accused knowing that he would go to the house are precisely 0%. The chances of the accused even knowing who he was are undoubtedly also 0%. How on earth could anyone possibly claim that they intended to kill him then?

Daubing "Novichok" (or "a Novichok or closely related agent" as Porton Down loosely described it in their only official legal statement on the nature of the substance used) would clearly be a reckless thing to do, not to mention an extremely untargeted way of attempting to assassinate someone (which is one of the reasons why, as an explanation, it is so utterly implausible). But to leap from that to saying that this action was done with the "intent" to kill Yulia Skripal and the "intent" to kill Nick Bailey is farcical. You might just as well allege that they attempted to murder the postman, since he could have come into contact with the door the following morning.

I am more than happy to be corrected by someone with legal training, but it seems to me both from the CPS's own guidance on what is required for a successful prosecution for the charge of attempted murder, and the fact that the door handle theory cannot possibly sustain the idea that there was an attempt on the lives of Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey, that there is absolutely no possibility that, were the case to come to court, these charges could be successfully prosecuted.

The irony of course is that the charge of the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal, at least, would make far more sense if the attack were said to have happened in The Maltings (or near vicinity), with her and her father being targeted by someone spraying a toxic chemical at them. And of course that scenario also happens to fit far better with the nature of the simultaneous (or thereabouts) collapse on the bench, than a scenario that posits the poisoning having taken place 4 hours before, with a drive, a duck feed, a meal and a drink in between. As it is, the charge that she and Mr Bailey were the intended murder targets via the door handle is quite frankly absurd.

Why, then, did the CPS include these charges then? One answer may simply be because they knew they can, since they also know that the case will almost certainly never come to court. But if this is the case, it does beg the question: if the charges of the attempted murder of Yulia Skripal and Nicholas Bailey clearly cannot be substantiated by the explanation given by The Metropolitan Police and the Government of what happened on 4th March, what confidence can anyone have that any of the other charges could be sustained?