Legal advice on pre-regulations lockdown of 23/03/20

Waiting for an internal review by Prime Minister's Office of their handling of this request.

Dear Prime Minister's Office,

I make the following request for disclosure regarding the Prime Minister's address to the nation on 23/03/20 (archived at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/p...).

I request:
- any discussion of whether to seek legal advice on the lawfulness of the PM's lockdown declaration of 23/03/20,
- whether the PM sought the same, and
- if so, such request and advice.

I say that the public interest in disclosure overrides privilege, policy and prejudice due to:

1. The need for transparency and accountability in imposing universal house arrest by unilateral edict in a TV address on 23/03/20. I refer to para 29 of the House of Commons Human Rights Select Committee's report 'The Government’s response to COVID-19: human rights' (archived at
https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt...

"The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 imposed the most wide-ranging restrictions on individual liberties, affecting the greatest number of people, since the Defence Regulations made during the Second World War. It has been reported that the Health Secretary referred to the lockdown regulations as ‘Napoleonic’ as they reversed the usual presumption that people are free to do what they like unless the law prohibits it; in lockdown people would be forbidden from doing anything not explicitly mentioned in the legislation. Lord Justice Hikenbottom has described the regulations as “possibly the most restrictive regime on the public life of persons and businesses ever”."

2. Gravity greater than the decision on the Iraq war from imprisoning every person in the UK. I refer to para 45 of the above report which suggests that the executive decree was more severe than the following lockdown regulations:

"The Prime Minister’s statement of 23 March 2020 referred only to four “very limited purposes” which were stated to be “the only reasons you should leave your home”. Those reasons were later expanded upon on the gov.uk website by a number of ‘frequently asked questions’. However, the regulations which came into force three days later provided a list of “reasonable excuses” for which people were legally permitted to leave the house. Not only was this list non-exhaustive, but it also included reasons which were not mentioned in the Government guidance, such as to access social services, for children of two parents who live apart to travel between homes and to fulfil a legal obligation."

This meant that those who worked from home, did not need medicine and had bread and milk at home I were effectively only allowed out of confinement for a jog.

The decree also threatened the entire population with the police issuing fines and dispersement.

On 24/03/20 government blitzed the nation with texts saying "GOV.UK ALERT CORONAVIRUS new rules in force now: you must stay at home" (archived at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coron...), thus confirming that the 'instruction' and 'rules' of 23/03/20 were indeed rules and not only rules but 'in force' and thus enacted by parliament.

On 25/03/20 the PM confirmed again that his edict of 23/03/20 were "rules", saying "That is why we have given the clear instruction that people must stay at home – unless they have one of the reasons we have set out...I want to thank everyone who has been following the clear rules that we set out on Monday." (archived at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/p...).

3. It being no longer a live issue as house arrest has since been legislated.

4. It being presumably unlawful as an ultra vires 64 hour lockdown between a) the PM's address to the nation just after 8.30pm on 23/03/20, "From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home" and b) the the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 coming into force at 1pm on 26/03/20, and thus a restriction on liberty, and therefore a target for suit by some 65 million claimants for false imprisonment (for the period of a few days until replaced by regulations) and breach of human rights and, if reckless (eg the PM did not believe it was lawful or did not ask or was told it was unlawful), action for misfeasance. I refer to Steve Baker MP's article in the Telegraph claiming that decree of "house arrest" meant "the rule of law "was "overthrown" (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/202...) and Lord Sumption's opinion that the PM thus turned the UK into a "police state" and "devalued the rule of law" (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/there...).

5. Disclosure being likely to encourage better quality decision making in future.

6. The public needing to ensure justice.

7. The public needing to understand their legal obligations next time the executive purports to rule by decree, especially given that police started enforcing the decree before regulations were made, for example:
- police rampaged in West Midlands tipping over a barbeque on 24/03/20 under the authority of the prime ministerial decree, the same day in Derbshire police patrolled the streets with a megaphone ordering people inside and Finsbury Park saw the local council do the same as did police in Peckham Rye,
- in Crewe police set up road blocks on 25/03/20, whilst BTP stopped passengers to quiz them and order them home, Derbyshire police dyed a lake black to stop swimming, Devon police threatened parents with social services if their children disobeyed the lockdown and in Derbyshire police chased walkers up a mountain with a drone on 25/03/20 then tried to shame them online with the footage on 26/03/20.

These examples of oppression are cited in at https://bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/wp-conten....

I further refer to para 47 of the Commons report which says the decree of 23/03/20 "generated a significant risk of Article 7 breaches if enforcement occurred prior to the laws being in place."

8. The public needing to safeguard the democratic process.

9. The public needing to get a fuller picture of how the executive purported to legislated without parliament for the first time since the civil war, despite the PM advising isolation on 12/03/20 and having managed to get parliament to publish the Coronovirus Act by 19/03/20 and thus being aware he might need to seek the accompanying lockdown legislation weeks earlier than he eventually did.

Yours faithfully,

Daryl Peagram

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

Our ref: FOI2020/22136

Dear DANIEL PEAGRAM,

Thank you for your request for information which was received on
17/12/2020. Your request is being handled under the terms of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 ('the Act').

The Act requires that a response must be given promptly, and in any event
within 20 working days. We will therefore aim to reply at the latest by
20/1/2021.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Cabinet Office

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

1 Attachment

Dear Daryl Peagram,

Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request (reference FOI2020/22136).

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Cabinet Office

Dear Prime Minister's Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Prime Minister's Office's handling of my FOI request 'Legal advice on pre-regulations lockdown of 23/03/20'.

I say the refusal was generic and thus unlawful given its failure to address my enumerated arguments for disclosure overriding your potential exemptions. This is an exceptional case where the PM stands accused of falsely imprisoning 68 million people, which would be the biggest breach of civil liberties in the history of parliament.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

Yours faithfully,

Daryl Peagram

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

Dear Daryl Peagram,

Thank you for your request for an internal review (reference
IR2021/01305), which was prompted by our response to your request for
information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We shall endeavour to complete the internal review and respond to you
within 20 working days.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team

Daryl Peagram left an annotation ()

ICO today gave Cabinet Office 10 days to provide the internal review.