The Daily Telegraph

Former Supreme Court judge disregarde­d ‘absurd’ lockdown rules


‘It ends up by banning many things that are perfectly harmless because in some cases they might be harmful’

A FORMER Supreme Court judge has revealed he stopped following lockdown regulation­s when they became “absurd”.

Lord Sumption, who served as a Supreme Court judge from 2012 to 2018, said he had complied with the regulation­s until they reached “levels of absurdity where the Government was simply continuing them in order to avoid admitting there were aspects which were not a very good idea to begin with”. He acknowledg­ed he could be fined because there was a “civic” and legal responsibi­lity to follow the regulation­s but he did not accept there was a “moral obligation” to abide by them.

He claimed the “fifth amendment” when asked by The Daily Telegraph what rules he had broken but added they were minor: “I didn’t cause any damage to anybody, nor could I have done.” He cited as examples of the absurdity where people had been reprimande­d for sunbathing because it was not exercise, where two consenting adults were rebuked for meeting up at one of their houses to go to bed together, and permitting six people to gather together in a garden.

Lord Sumption, 72, a barrister, author and medieval historian, said the problem lay with the way the Government had approached lockdown by imposing a “one size fits all” law that was targeted at “harmful” actions but affected harmless ones. “It ends up by banning many things that are perfectly harmless because in some cases they might be harmful. That’s an extremely inefficien­t and despotic way of dealing with human beings,” he said.

To describe the regulation­s, he used a gardening analogy of “involuntar­y creep”, where someone uses weedkiller that has the unplanned effect of destroying beautiful flowers. Speaking at a Prospect webinar on democracy and the rule of law in the age of Covid-19, he said he would have preferred a strategy where people were trusted to assess their degree of risk.

Least risk averse were the young, who were least likely to be affected, while the most vulnerable could freely decide to self-isolate. “For a Government to say we are so stupid and untrustwor­thy we will take this decision-making out of your hands is not acceptable in a democratic society,” he said. “If you want a risk-free environmen­t then you can lock yourself up. That’s a better alternativ­e than the Government locking everyone up.”

The consequenc­e of the Government’s approach was the “extraordin­ary gyrations” over taking exercise where people were told to stop sunbathing, he added.

The ban on staying safely in a second home was compounded by the subsequent decision to let people travel as far as they could in a day to a Covid-free area but not to stay overnight, he said.

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