United Kingdom

Aviation tycoon worth £200m loses legal fight against coronavirus lockdown rules

An aviation tycoon worth £200million has lost a legal fight against coronavirus lockdown rules after branding the measures the 'most extreme restrictions on fundamental freedoms in the modern era'.

Simon Dolan, 51, was pursuing a claim against Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over the restrictions.

The businessman's lawyers argued the rules - aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus - were among 'the most onerous restrictions to personal liberty' in almost four centuries.

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

In a statement Mr Dolan, who brought his case with another individual, said he plans to continue his legal action, saying the 'last chance to challenge these destructive measures may now rest with an appeal to the Supreme Court'.

Simon Dolan (above in October), 51, has lost a legal fight against lockdown rules after branding the measures the 'most extreme restrictions on fundamental freedoms in the modern era'

Mr Dolan, pictured with his wife Sabrina in May 2011, took his case to the Court of Appeal after a High Court judge refused permission for a full hearing of his challenge in July

He sought a judicial review of the regulations, which he claimed cost the economy £2.5billion a day and are a 'disproportionate' breach of certain freedoms protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. 

His legal action also challenged the decision to close schools and asked for disclosure of minutes from all Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meetings since the beginning of the year.

In a judgement published today, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh, dismissed Mr Dolan's argument that the restrictions were unlawful because the Government acted outside its powers under public health laws.

In their ruling, the three senior judges gave initial permission for a judicial review of Mr Dolan's claim that the Government had acted beyond its powers under the Public Health Act 1984 in making the regulations.

But they then made a final ruling on this ground, dismissing it, saying the Health Secretary 'did have the power to make the regulations under challenge'.

The ruling said: 'We have come to the conclusion that, although permission to bring this claim for judicial review should be granted, in view of the public interest in the resolution of this important issue, the correct construction is that the Secretary of State did have power to make the regulations under the 1984 Act, as amended in 2008.' 

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 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 October 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 repealed in July and replaced with new regulations.

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

The aviation tycoon was pursuing a claim against Health Secretary Matt Hancock (above, pictured yesterday) and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over the restrictions

The ruling comes ahead of tier restrictions being introduced tomorrow as the second national lockdown comes to an end (pictured: Boris Johnson after attending a cabinet meeting today)

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 (that is, all of the measures over time) at the heart of the legislative steps 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'.

Mr Dolan, who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth £200million, was 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'.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Dolan said: 'I took up this legal battle because, since March, the Government has seized power and control over people's lives in a manner which has never been seen before, even in wartime. They have done this using emergency powers (in the 1984 Act) and have sought to justify the 'emergency' with spurious data and discredited modelling. 

Who is Simon Dolan? Monaco based aviation tycoon is worth £200m according to Sunday Times Rich List 

Simon Dolan is a businessman from Essex, where he was born in 1969. From the age of 13, he would sell scratch cards at school, a sign of his entrepreneurial flair.    

The tycoon left school at 16 and started doing people's accounts after putting an advert in a local paper.

He founded SJD Accountancy, which was one of the first accounting firms to offer a money back guarantee. He sold the firm in 2014.

In 2010, Dolan invested in new start-up companies on Twitter, initially offering a £5 million investment scheme for successful business pitches. He was then known as 'Twitter Dragon'. 

Aside from accountancy, he has invested in PHA Group Ltd, Oneserve, Jota Aviation, BajaBoard, Coast Autonomous and Jota Sport.

In 2010, Dolan and his racing team were stars of the documentary 'Journey to Le Mans'. 

Mr Dolan is based in Monaco with his wife Sabrina and sons Enzo and Bowie. 

'The regulations were imposed without prior scrutiny by Parliament. They were signed into law by ministers guided by unelected scientific 'experts', many of whom are on the state's payroll.

'Any vote by Parliament was just a rubber-stamping exercise. We find ourselves in a situation where we no longer live in a functioning democracy.

'Our only recourse was to challenge the lockdown by way of judicial review. If Parliament did not examine the lockdown and the courts will not review what the Government has done, then who is holding ministers to account? We are living in a country where the Government can do whatever it wants.

'Given the continued acquiescence of MPs and peers to the making of the lockdown laws, our last chance to challenge these destructive measures may now rest with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

'This is not a one-man crusade. It is on behalf of the families and businesses across the UK whose lives have been wrecked by lockdown policies which were implemented in haste without proper consideration.

'Our legal challenge has become one of the largest crowdfunded cases in UK legal history. We have raised over £410,000 from almost 14,000 pledges.

'This fight is on behalf of all of those people.'

'The regulations were imposed without prior scrutiny by Parliament. They were signed into law by ministers guided by unelected scientific 'experts', many of whom are on the state's payroll.

'Any vote by Parliament was just a rubber-stamping exercise. We find ourselves in a situation where we no longer live in a functioning democracy.

'Our only recourse was to challenge the lockdown by way of judicial review. If Parliament did not examine the lockdown and the courts will not review what the Government has done, then who is holding ministers to account? We are living in a country where the Government can do whatever it wants.

'Given the continued acquiescence of MPs and peers to the making of the lockdown laws, our last chance to challenge these destructive measures may now rest with an appeal to the Supreme Court.'

The ruling comes ahead of local tier restrictions being introduced tomorrow as the second national lockdown comes to an end.

At a No 10 news conference yesterday, Mr Hancock said he hoped some areas could be moved into lower tiers when the restrictions come up for their first fortnightly review on December 16. 

But government scientists have made clear they see little scope for any widespread easing before Christmas. 

It could mean most areas of England will go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.

Lord Burnett dismissed Mr Dolan's argument that the restrictions were unlawful because the Government acted outside its powers under public health laws (file photo of Court of Appeal)

Explaining his decision to order Labour to abstain in today's Commons vote on the local tier system, Sir Keir Starmer said: 'Coronavirus remains a serious threat to the public's health and that's why Labour accept the need for continued restrictions. We will always act in the national interest, so we will not vote against these restrictions in Parliament tomorrow.

'However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson's Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.

'We still don't have a functioning testing system, public health messaging is confused, and businesses across the country are crying out for more effective economic support to get them through the winter months. 

'It is short-term Government incompetence that is causing long-term damage to the British economy. It is imperative that the Government gets control of the virus so that our NHS can be protected and our economy recovers faster.'

In response, the Government accused Sir Keir of 'playing politics' in the midst of the pandemic. 'This pandemic is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades and Labour have decided to abstain on it,' a No10 spokesman said.

'While Keir Starmer claims he offers new leadership, it's clear to all that he actually offers no leadership at all.

'Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the Government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people.'

Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being put in the lowest level of restrictions from Wednesday, with many areas in Tier 3 even though they have seen few or no infections. 

Concessions such as a February renewal date and more money for pubs and restaurants have already been offered.


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