Simon Dolan has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of England’s lockdown, which he claims was introduced unlawfully and disproportionately breaches freedoms protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
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Mr Dolan is also challenging the secrecy of the scientific advice given by Sage and claims government’s five tests for ending lockdown – such as the rate of infection “decreasing to manageable levels” – are too narrow.
His lawyers had threatened the government on 30 April that he would launch the legal action – echoing that taken by Gina Miller to challenge Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament – unless drastic steps were taken to ease restrictions.
The entrepreneur, reportedly worth £200m, has crowdfunded £130,000 from more than 4,000 donors, many of whom say they are “parting with money they don’t really have because they believe so strongly about having their freedoms and livelihoods stolen from them”, Mr Dolan said.
“At the heart of this historic case is the protection of freedom and liberty for 66 million people,” Mr Dolan said. “We are challenging a catastrophic set of decisions which will leave an indelible print from a boot which has stamped on the nation’s freedoms and will blight the lives of generation after generation.
“Every day that the lockdown remains in place is one more day the country cannot afford – on any level. For those reasons and more, this is very possibly the most important case of our lifetime.
“The claim argues that the lockdown measures are unlawful because they breach the European Convention on Human Rights, that the five tests for terminating lockdown are too narrow, and the measures taken by government are disproportionate.
Warning of income tax rises, he added: “The government has spent £13,000 per household on bailout so far. Yet there was no scrutiny, debate or vote on the lockdown laws before they were implemented back in March.
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“The policies are completely disproportionate to the harm they are supposed to be aimed at preventing. A judicial review is the only effective means of challenging what the government is doing and holding them properly to account.
“Boris and his crew have sleepwalked into this mess and are taking the nation over the cliff edge with them.”
He claimed that “people are voting with their feet against lockdown”, saying: “Just look at the number of people out on the beaches and outside yesterday … It is my name on the claim form, but I sincerely believe this is a claim on behalf of so many businesses, individuals and families.”
In papers lodged with the court by his legal team, his barrister, Philip Havers QC, argues that the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 are unlawful and beyond the government’s powers.
“The above measures are the some of the most extreme restrictions imposed on fundamental freedoms in the modern era,” Mr Havers says.
He also says Mr Dolan contends it was “irrational and disproportionate” to impose lockdown rules “on the entire country for a virus that was known to pose little risk of mortality or serious illness to the healthy working population, while posing much greater risks to those with pre-existing health conditions and, particularly, those over 70 years old”.
Mr Dolan is described in the court papers as “an entrepreneur who fully or partially owns a number of UK businesses which combined employ a total of around 600 people”.
Mr Havers adds: “His company, Jota Aviation Ltd, has in recent weeks made numerous flights to transport vital PPE equipment for NHS healthcare professionals and to repatriate British people stranded abroad, as well as flying daily for the Italian Post Office to help keep their goods moving.
“While he lives abroad, he is a British citizen with both parents living in England who may not visit them or his friends living in England, he may not attend demonstrations against the ‘lockdown’ policies that he would but for the fact that they are proscribed by the regulations.”
The High Court will decide, based on the papers, whether Mr Dolan’s claim can go ahead and, if he is unsuccessful at that stage, he will have the opportunity to argue at a court hearing why the case should proceed to a full judicial review.
The government has indicated it intends to oppose the claim, having responded to a letter outlining Mr Dolan’s proposed action by saying his case is not open to legal challenge. Mr Dolan hopes to have his case heard in the first week of June.
The most recent Office for National Statistics data shows there have now been more than 44,000 fatalities with Covid-19 on the death certificate.
Additional reporting by PA