British businessman loses legal challenge over coronavirus lockdown rules

1 December 2020, 16:02 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 16:12

A sign in the window of a closed cafe reads 'We Will Be Back' as England enters a second lockdown
A sign in the window of a closed cafe reads 'We Will Be Back' as England enters a second lockdown. Picture: Getty

By Patrick Grafton-Green

British businessman Simon Dolan has lost his Court of Appeal challenge against the Government's coronavirus lockdown rules.

Mr Dolan was pursuing a claim against Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over the restrictions.

He argued the regulations aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus were among "the most onerous restrictions to personal liberty" in almost four centuries.

He took his case to the Court of Appeal after a High Court judge refused permission for a full hearing of his challenge in July.

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But in a ruling published on Tuesday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh, dismissed his challenge.

Mr Dolan, who brought his case with another individual, said in statement he plans to continue his legal action.

He said the "last chance to challenge these destructive measures may now rest with an appeal to the Supreme Court".

Mr Dolan, who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth £200 million, argued the restrictions put in place originally in March were unlawful because they were outside the Government's powers under public health legislation and a "disproportionate breach" of human rights laws.

He claimed the Health Secretary "acted irrationally and disproportionately".

In their ruling, the three senior judges dismissed Mr Dolan's claim, saying Mr Hancock "did have the power to make the regulations".

The court refused permission outright for Mr Dolan to bring his challenge on other grounds, including that the regulations were a breach of the Human Rights Act, saying "those grounds are now academic, because the regulations under challenge have been repealed and, in any event, they are not properly arguable".

At the October hearing Philip Havers QC, barrister for Mr Dolan, said lockdown regulations announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March "introduced restrictions on the freedoms of the people in this country never seen before in times of peace or war".

In documents before the court, Mr Havers said Mr Dolan's claim "involves a wholesale challenge to some of the most onerous restrictions to personal liberty" imposed since the time of Oliver Cromwell and the English Protectorate in the mid-1600s, "if not ever".

The hearing took place shortly before a second national lockdown was announced in England, with a tier system in place at the time.

Mr Havers told the judges it was not an academic exercise for the court to hear a challenge to the original lockdown rules, which were amended after they were brought in.

Mr Dolan was bringing his challenge over "the imposition and continuing application of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 in their original and amended forms".

Sir James Eadie QC, barrister for the Government, had told the court Mr Dolan's challenge was "a root-and-branch attack on the measures... taken in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic to protect the public and to seek to save lives by ensuring social distancing".

He said Mr Dolan's case should be dismissed, saying it is "unarguable".