BIG BROTHER WATCH LAUNCHES LEGAL CHALLENGE TO WELSH COVID PASS SCHEME
• NGO begins first human rights legal challenge in the UK against Covid passes
• Campaigners call the Welsh Covid pass scheme “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced”
• Challenge comes as the Welsh government extends Covid pass checks to cinemas and theatres
Civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch has today initiated a legal challenge against mandatory Covid passes in Wales, calling for the “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced” scheme to be scrapped.
The non-profit group’s legal challenge comes as the Welsh government is extending domestic requirements for Covid passes for people to access cinemas and theatres, as well as nightclubs, concerts, and larger events. Big Brother Watch joined local businesses in criticising the expansion, calling it “safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens”.
Big Brother Watch’s pre-action letter, sent to the Welsh government today, maintains that no evidence has been provided that the mandatory use of Covid passes will benefit the public health and that the “disproportionate” scheme breaches the right to privacy, protected by the Human Rights Act.
In particular, Big Brother Watch draws attention to advice from SAGE and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell issued before the introduction of mandatory Covid passes to Wales, which outlined risks of the scheme causing ethical issues and unintended harms such as vaccine distrust and warned that there may be no net benefit to a scheme. Furthermore, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Westminster analysed Covid certification in detail and concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.
However, First Minister Mark Drakeford pushed ahead with the scheme following a snap vote in October, which was narrowly won despite unanimous rejection by opposition parties.
Big Brother Watch is leading the campaign against mandatory Covid passes across the UK, and is backed by thousands of members of the public who have collectively raised over £170,000 via Crowdfunder to support the campaign. 83 MPs and 11 rights groups have signed Big Brother Watch’s pledge against mandatory Covid passes to date.
Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo said:
“Covid passes are internal health passports that are authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced.
“Covid IDs don’t tell you that a person doesn’t have Covid or can’t spread Covid, but do make society less free and less accessible for people.
“Within weeks, this mandatory health ID scheme has already been significantly expanded in absence of an evidence base. This is safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens.
“There are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures to keep people safe and get the country back to normal than excluding healthy people without the right health papers from society. But we can never get back to anything like normal with health ID checks that will inevitably continue to expand.
“We urge the Welsh government to scrap these divisive and discriminatory Covid passes. If they don’t, we will seek to make our case in court.”
Solicitor Shirin Marker of Bindmans said:
“It is very troubling that the Welsh government has introduced and expanded this scheme in the absence of any publicly available evidence to support the measure and despite scientific advice from the UK government’s own advisers raising questions about its utility.
“We hope that the Welsh government will withdraw the scheme which, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a disproportionate interference with the privacy rights of the public.”
• Big Brother Watch has instructed John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP.
• A copy of the pre-action letter is available here.
• Spokespeople are available for interviews. Contact Big Brother Watch’s 24h media line on 07730439257 or email email@example.com
• Big Brother Watch’s campaign page is at stopvaccinepassports.co.uk