The former chief prosecutor for north-west England Nazir Afzal has insisted that the actions of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings during the COVID-19 lockdown warrant a “thorough investigation”, reports The Guardian.
Spearheading a legal campaign to ensure a detailed probe into the alleged lockdown breaches by Cummings, Afzal, whose brother Umar died of coronavirus on 8 April during self-isolation at home, has instructed his lawyers to write to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick.
“The apparent wrongdoing included actions in London, including Mr Cummings leaving his home without reasonable excuse on 27 March,” says the letter, cited by the outlet.
The ex-chief prosecutor argues that an investigation into Cummings’ trip from London to Durham at the height of the pandemic is necessitated by “continuing pressing public imperative to ensure strict compliance” with advice pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.
Afzal’s lawyers, Hodge Jones & Allen, have termed the earlier three-day investigation by Durham police into Cummings’ trip to County Durham as insufficient, as it fails to lay bare the motives that led the politician to leave London when his wife was displaying coronavirus symptoms and a day before he himself fell ill.
Urging further investigation of Cummings’ actions during the lockdown imposed in the UK to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, Afzal’s lawyers have also written to the chief constable of Durham police, Jo Farrell, and the director of public prosecutions, Max Hill.
The letters insist that results of the probe might be instrumental in enabling Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service and the UK public “to understand whether Dominic Cummings should be charged and prosecuted for breach of the health protection [coronavirus, restrictions] regulations 2020 and/or related offences”.
Citing a number of public authorities, including the police, the lawyers suggest that Cummings’ alleged violation of the rules during the pandemic had “undermined the importance of compliance and made the task of police enforcement with the public more difficult across the country”.
On 28 May 2020, Durham police stated they did not consider an offence was committed when Cummings travelled from London to Durham, while conceding that he might have been guilty of a minor breach of health protection regulations by making a 52-mile round trip to Barnard Castle with his wife and son on her birthday.
Cummings had denied any wrongdoing regarding the trip to the sightseeing venue, claiming the journey on 12 April, Easter Sunday, was to test his eyesight.
As no finding was made by the police force in relation to the government’s “stay at home” guidance and Cummings’ initial decision to leave London for Durham, no further action was deemed necessary.
Dominic Cummings sparked widespread outrage after The Guardian reported that he, his wife, and their child had driven to the northeastern city of Durham in late March to stay with the presidential adviser’s parents after his wife started to display COVID-19 symptoms.
Cummings fended off a backlash over the trip, saying that he was unable to find adequate childcare options in the capital in case his wife and he had fallen ill with the respiratory virus.
At the time, according to Cummings, driving to his father's farm seemed the best option. Despite public anger over his actions among constituents, many of who had been complying with the government’s lockdown procedures,
Cummings made a speech in the Number 10 Rose Garden, refusing to either regret his actions, or comply with demands from some quarters for him to leave his post.
Speaking right after the press conference, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed support for his aide, saying he did not believe that Cummings had done anything to undermine the public health message amid the COVID-19 prevention measures in the country.
"Yes of course I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people feel ... That's why I wanted people to understand exactly what had happened," said the prime minister.