The Covid-19 Public Inquiry is currently ongoing (led by Lady Hallett a former Appeals Court Judge) and has provided a constant flurry of political bait for the media to chew on. This can be seen in the widely circulated testimony of former Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings which has gained traction for its particularly vulgar and Malcolm Tucker-esque language. Nonetheless, the inquiry has been given statutory powers to compel the attendance, testimony and evidence of witnesses; whilst this is no doubt insightful, it serves little purpose to the victims of those who lost loved ones when their Advocates were only afforded two questions to ask witnesses in one of the modules.
Instead, it is something that many are reluctant to consider — that the trial of politicians in the court of public opinion is frankly not accountability for their abysmal failures in relation to their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. The courts of law in this country serve to provide redress for the aggrieved in both criminal and civil wrongs so why not utilise them? The purpose of an inquiry results in little except a political admonishment which serves to comfort very few of us. Including who saw the impose the most draconian liberty-restricting measures seen in statutory history while at the same time demanding that we leave our loved ones to die alone in hospital beds for “the greater good”. With those in power then partying and boozing up to the point of vomiting over the walls of 10 Downing Street the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, it begs the question of when public accountability does not serve the means to an end.
It is exactly because of the flagrant abuse of constitutional and legislative powers by government, combined with the hypocritical approach of telling the public they ought to serve a communitarian interest – to “stop the spread” – while our politicians followed the mantra of “rules for thee and not for me”, that warrants criminal prosecutions against all those who presided over the public health crisis and abysmally failed. The parties and further breaches of Covid rules also beg a more sinister question of whether the measures taken by politicians to impose the most harsh restrictions on liberty in the history of the United Kingdom were done in good faith. Even so, criminal prosecution seems like the only kind of redress for the price of failure on such an important public health issue which saw hypocritical advice, massive profiteering by government-affiliated cronies, an eye-watering £28 billion of tax payers money lost in fraud and over 100,000 dead in the aftermath of Covid-19. While essentially all those who were originally occupied dealing with the pandemic are out of government now (with the exception of the sitting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) there should be no hesitancy in pursuing criminal prosecutions for these failures.
Over 28,000 people have been convicted of Covid-19 breaches in courts across the country – two fines and the justification that we “ought to move on” does not seem like justice or accountability to me. While I am no legal scholar or academic I put forward that criminal prosecutions be brought against those who failed the country at its most dire time. Further that any prosecution against them should include the following charges:
- Gross Negligence Manslaughter (contrary to the common law) – in relation to the criminally negligent mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic ignoring official medical guidance and pursuing a path of ministerial interventions.
- Misconduct in a Public Office (contrary to the common law) – through the severe actions of misconduct through actions which fundamentally damaged public confidence in governmental decision making and its authority amounting to a serious breach of trust.
- Fraud (contrary to s 4 Fraud Act 2006) – in relation to the eye-watering £28.5 billion lost during Covid (Public Accounts Committee estimates) (for context it would cost 1.9 billion to eliminate homelessness in the UK) along with the fraudulent awarding of PPE contracts to government-associated cronies
- Ill-treatment and Wilful Neglect (contrary to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015) – for the deliberate and knowledgeable understanding that the UK would face a pandemic in the early stages of January 2020 along with the policy espoused by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in sending infected and untested patients back to care homes resulting in 28,000 “excess deaths”. The High Court of England and Wales has since called this policy “illegal and irrational”.
Therefore, in my opinion there is little doubt that while the Covid-19 Public Inquiry is seeking to establish the impartial and ultimate facts resulting in the colossal failures of the government of the day, there must be proper redress and accountability. There must be a message that the failures that we suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic must never happen again and those in power have a duty and obligation to act lawfully. As a result, there must be a price to pay for the failure of the the UK government and its handling of the pandemic; that price is to stand before a judge and jury and be tried for the aforementioned and other applicable criminal offences.