Big Brother Watch applied for permission to intervene in legal challenge R (Dolan and others) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Big Brother Watch Team / November 18, 2020

Big Brother Watch, with the help of an excellent legal team – Kirsty Brimelow QC and Jude Bunting from Doughty Street Chambers, Emmet Coldrick from Quadrant Law Chambers and Jules Carey from Bindmans LLP – applied for permission to intervene in legal challenge R (Dolan and others) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This challenge concerns the legality of the national ‘lockdown’.

Our submission concentrated on the scope of the Health Secretary’s law-making powers under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. At the time of our submission, over 70 sets of Regulations had been made under the Public Health Act, none of which had received prior Parliamentary approval or scrutiny. This cannot be right. During a crisis, ‘urgency’ can easily open the door to authoritarianism – the role of Parliament to keep the Government in check has never been more important.

We believe that the Secretary of State does not have the authority to impose such wide- reaching restrictions on people’s liberty using the Public Health Act. The powers contained within the Act were intended to isolate individuals only with the expressed approval of magistrate, not to place the entire nation under house arrest.

The Court rejected our request to intervene but indicated that Mr. Dolan’s legal team would be able to make the arguments. His legal team did make use of our submissions; particularly BBW’s arguments against rule by decree. Francis Hoar, who is leading Mr. Dolan’s legal challenge said:

“The question of whether the 1984 Act authorises Ministers to impose the most extraordinary and far reaching restrictions on day to day life is a matter of great constitutional importance, as Lord Sumption has recently observed. The arguments raised by the Big Brother Watch team raised two important issues, namely: the approach that the court should adopt in determining the extent of powers given to Ministers affecting fundamental rights; and the fact that the reference to the International Health Regulations 2005 in the Explanatory Note to the amendments to the 1984 Act did not justify the removal of the fundamental rights of the whole population in response to a pandemic. While BBW were not given permission to intervene, their high quality submissions were relied upon by the Claimants’ team with gratitude; and I am particularly grateful to their junior counsel, Emmet Coldrick, for assisting me with overnight submissions after the first day of the hearing.”

We will continue to fight for civil liberties and human rights wherever we can and for as long as necessary.

You can read our application to intervene here and the submissions here and here.