Nazir Afzal Calls on PM to Ensure Covid Public Inquiry Examines Personal Roles of Ministers and Other Key Figures
Lawyers for a former Chief Crown Prosecutor, Nazir Afzal OBE, have written to the Prime Minister seeking reassurance that the forthcoming Covid Public Inquiry will rigorously examine the personal roles of ministers and other key figures in observing Covid regulations, and the impact of their shortcomings on public confidence in and compliance with the Covid regulations.
The letter has been sent in response to three recent events in particular: recent revelations of allegations of a Christmas party held last year at Downing Street said to be in breach of Covid regulations, the emergence of new ‘omicron’ variant, and the increase of restrictions on citizen’s freedom.
Mr Afzal has a direct interest in the forthcoming Covid Inquiry, having lost a brother to Covid, suffered from the virus himself and, as a former Chief Crown prosecutor, sought to ensure that alleged breaches of Covid regulations have been properly investigated and addressed.
With the support of Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, Mr Afzal wishes to ensure that the Inquiry has the power to identify and examine all such breaches of the regulations by those responsible for tackling the pandemic and the impacts of those breaches. He wishes to ensure that lessons can be learned during the Inquiry and acted upon as soon as they arise and before more lives are unnecessarily lost.
Nazir Afzal adds: “The disclosures that the Prime Minister and his Government have been partying in breach of Covid guidelines while families have not been able to attend funerals of loved ones merely reinforces the need for the Covid inquiry to look not just at how the pandemic was badly handled but also at how the rules were plainly ignored by those who led us through it. Why? Because it reflects the strategy of mixed messaging which the Government adopted and why so many of us died unnecessarily.”
Mike Schwarz, a Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors commented: “Public confidence in the Inquiry is crucial. It is being constructed at this very moment by those with most to hide and to lose by the truth emerging. This correspondence with the Prime Minster is part of a process of building a coalition of those who are as concerned now about the integrity of the Inquiry as they have been about the government’s handling of the pandemic itself.”
Extract from the letter sent by Nazir Afzal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 3 December 2021
“As to Mr Cummings, you and very senior minister sought to defend and protect Mr Cummings at the time of the exposure of his misconduct (see eg – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-52792366). You will be aware that out client had a particular role in seeking to ensure a thorough and accountable investigation of Dominic Cummings’ behaviour, through the presentation of a detailed and lengthy report containing evidence and legal submissions, to the police (including the Commissioner for the Metropolis) and the Crown Prosecution Service (including the Director of Public Prosecutions). The authorities ultimately declined to take any action or, indeed, to explain their reasons, much to the dissatisfaction not only of our client, but also of a large section of the public. The damage caused by these events to public confidence in the government and compliance with the Covid regulations is evidenced by authoritative independent reports (see for example – https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31690-1/fulltext and https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2020/aug/cummings-effect-led-loss-confidence-uk-government).
“This was not the only example of non-compliance to emerge at the time and, in the light of recent revelations about a party held at Downing Street last Christmas, it is likely that more took place, have been hidden and will emerge. The Inquiry should have the power to identify and examine these.
“Like many aspects of the forthcoming inquiry, these events are not just of historical interest. They will provide important learning opportunities for the future given the new variant and the prospect of further regulation of citizens’ actions.
“We should therefore be grateful if you would ensure that the terms of reference of the forthcoming Inquiry allow the Inquiry fully to examine the role of relevant individuals in government and the executive as well as advisers (including political and scientific advisers) in devising the regulations, promoting them and ensuring compliance and their enforcement.
“The terms of reference should also allow the inquiry to identify leading individuals’ alleged and / or proven non- compliance with those regulations, as well as their superiors’ responsibility for securing those individuals’ accountability.
“Further the terms should also allow there to be full and open examination of the impact of that non-compliance on public confidence and compliance with those regulations.
“Ultimately, the terms of reference should allow the Inquiry to make findings on the impact of non-compliance on public health, with a view to making decisive and prompt recommendations for the measures necessary, now and in the future, to preserve life.”
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