On 14 August 2020, former Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal’s legal team wrote to Mr. Cummings and his wife, Ms. Wakefield, making focussed requests for them to make available data about their movements on key dates during lockdown, in March and April 2020.
The letters were prompted by recently publicised disputes over Mr. Cummings’ movements in mid-April, continuing evidence of the ‘Cummings effect’ on public health and are based on Mr. Cummings’ own reliance on and apparent willingness to make available data supporting his version of events.
Writing to Mr. Cummings, Mike Schwarz, Partner at Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors, said this:
Our letter is prompted ….. by evidence from further witnesses, set out in news reports last week, that places you in Durham on the morning of 19 April 2020, indicating that you had returned there a second time. That seems to be incompatible with your public statement in the Downing Street Rose Garden on 25 May 2020, when you said:
“In the last few days, there have been many media reports that I returned to Durham after 13 April. All these stories are false. There is a particular report that I returned there on 19 April. Photos and data on my phone prove this to be false. And local CCTV, if it exists, would also prove that I’m telling the truth that I was in London on that day. I was not in Durham.”
We are therefore writing to request that you make available specific data in your possession and available from independent recording devices, capable of proving …. your account. This would … conclusively establish your whereabouts on the weekend of 17-19 April 2020. We are also asking that you provide the same in relation to 27-28 March 2020 and to 2-3 April 2020, when you and your family made journeys while, on your own account, you would have been highly contagious with COVID-19.
Specifically, Mr. Cummings is asked to provide:
(1) location history data … from all mobile phone devices … used … on the above dates, and linked to any Gmail account used … including, but not limited to, Google location history data; and
(2) location history data from the Land Rover accounts for the two Land Rover Discovery vehicles … in which you travelled as driver or passenger on the above dates.
He is also asked to provide authorisation:
(3) for the police to conduct a search of relevant tracking systems, including ANPR, ULEZ and Congestion Charge records, for the licence plates of the vehicles in which you travelled as driver or passenger on [those dates] …
(4) for Land Rover … to release location data recorded by any tracking device fitted to any vehicle in which you travelled as driver or passenger on the above dates;
(5) for Google to release location data history for all Gmail accounts registered to your name and for all devices which you used or had with you at any time on the above dates.
A similar letter with similar requests has been sent to Mary Wakefield.
Mindful of the need to balance the public’s concerns with Mr. Cummings’ personal privacy and work responsibilities, the letter to him says:
As an experienced prosecutor, Mr. Afzal is extremely mindful of the national security, privacy and other concerns that might relate to certain data and information stored on your mobile phone or other devices. The above requests are carefully circumscribed to location data for the dates and times at which you were acting in a personal rather than professional capacity, and in relation to which you and Ms. Wakefield have already demonstrated your willingness to divulge significant details to the public. We do not seek for you to provide or authorise the disclosure of any data or information that are not directly relevant to your whereabouts.
As you expressly recognised in your press statement in the Rose Garden, phone and other recorded data constitute important independent evidence of your location at the relevant times, capable of establishing your whereabouts definitively. Having highlighted the importance of such evidence to the nation, you will no doubt agree that it is important that you ensure its provision in light of the continuing controversy surrounding these matters, which neither your press statement nor the Durham Constabulary’s short investigation have allayed.
The requests were triggered by increasing concern about the ‘Cummings effect’ – his alleged breaches of the regulations, the apparent failure of the authorities properly to respond to them, and the impact this has had on the public’s confidence in, and respect for, the Government’s ongoing policies and regulations aimed at protecting the public’s health.
The letter concludes with these comments:
…because you expressly made reference to and relied upon phone and other camera-recorded data that you said would corroborate your account and would show that the contradictory witness accounts were “false”, any unwillingness now to produce that data, would be highly significant.
It would, in our view, be an important, relevant factor for the police and CPS to take into account when determining how to progress this matter.
In the Rose Garden, you said this on the need for fairness and accountability:
“I understand that millions of people have seen media coverage of this issue. I know that millions have endured awful hardship, including personal tragedies, over the past few months, and people are suffering every day. And I know the British people hate the idea of unfairness. I wanted to explain what I thought, what I did and why, over this period, because I think that people like me who helped to make the rules should be accountable for their actions.”
In light of that understanding, we ask you, on behalf of Mr. Afzal and of the millions of others across the country who have endured awful hardship and suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and their strict adherence to the lockdown rules, to provide, and to authorise the provision of the information requested in this letter.
The letters ask Mr. Cummings and Ms. Wakefield for replies within 14 days.
Mr. Afzal OBE says this about those letters:
“All we ask, on behalf of the law abiding public, is that Mr. Cummings, who has regularly spoken about the importance of data, provide the data that will evidence his whereabouts and prove he was telling the whole truth in the Downing Street Garden. We have written to Ms. Wakefield too because she has yet to give an account of her whereabouts, which has become increasingly relevant as witnesses give their accounts. The public deserve the truth, nothing else.”
Dispute over movements on and around 19th April 2020:
Reports on the ‘Cummings effect’:
Background, press releases by HJA solicitors:
- NAZIR AFZAL OBE AND LEGAL TEAM PREPARE EVIDENCE DOSSIER FOR FULL INVESTIGATION INTO LOCKDOWN MISCONDUCT CASE AGAINST DOMINIC CUMMINGS
- PROSECUTION AGAINST DOMINIC CUMMINGS: NAZIR AFZAL CALLS ON POLICE COMMISSIONER AND PROSECUTION AUTHORITIES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND PROPER INVESTIGATION
For further information, please contact:
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Georgina Whittle, Partner
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