Birkbeck Uni law graduate looks to privately prosecute Dominic Cummings for Durham trip

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By Aishah Hussain on

Mahsa Taliefar is seeking £300,000 in online fundraiser

Mahsa Taliefar and Dominic Cummings

A Birkbeck, University of London law graduate has launched an online fundraising campaign for the private prosecution of Dominic Cummings.

Mahsa Taliefar is calling on the public to fund potential legal proceedings against the government’s top aide for his alleged breach of lockdown rules.

Cummings has been met with calls to resign after it was reported that he undertook a five-hour journey from his home in London to his parents’ house in Durham during the national lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come out in support of his chief advisor and said Cummings had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.

Durham Police said last month that they did not consider an offence was committed when Cummings travelled from London to Durham. They concluded, however, that a “minor breach” of the health protection regulations might have occurred in travelling from his parents’ property to Barnard Castle — a journey of roughly 30 minutes. Cummings admitted to taking a trip to the grounds of Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, rather than for leisure or sightseeing purposes, during a televised press conference. Durham Police has decided to take no further action against Cummings for his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle.

In her petition, which has so far raised £3,590 of its £300,000 target through the backing of over 250 donors, Taliefar draws comparisons between Cummings and Professor Neil Ferguson, the scientific advisor to the government, who resigned following reports he had breached lockdown guidance he had been instrumental in implementing. “The hypocrisy was galling, but he at least had the good grace to resign over the issue,” she writes. “Mr Cummings, however, did not resign.”

“Rather, he arrogantly demanded that we the public accept his preposterous statement as a reasonable excuse for not complying with the law,” Taliefar continues. “He made a barefaced pronouncement from an apparently legally sanitised script that he and his family had embarked on a 60-mile roundtrip to Barnard Castle on his wife’s birthday solely to test his compromised eyesight. A more ridiculous excuse is difficult to imagine.”

She goes on:

“I am only a law graduate, but even to my inexperienced eye, it is clear to me that Dominic Cummings apparently broke the law and from a position where it was incumbent on him not to do so. More importantly, he insulted the families of the 40,000 people who have so far died from COVID-19… I like many others have suffered separation from my loved ones and find it unacceptable that there seems to be one rule for elites and another for us.”

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Taliefar, a former paralegal who currently works pro bono for the Somers Town Legal Advice Corner in London, claims that she has researched the cost of instructing a legal team, including solicitors and a QC who are “experts in the criminal law” to seek advice on whether a private prosecution is possible.

“The purpose of the funds is to obtain legal advice concerning the prosecution of Mr Cummings and should a basis for prosecution be established, consequential representation to prosecute Dominic Cummings and hold him to account,” she explains, adding that the funds will be payable to Waterfords Solicitors, a national firm with offices in Birmingham, Brentford and Hounslow. Legal Cheek has approached the firm for comment.

Taliefar is currently completing the CILEx graduate fast-track diploma and hopes to qualify as a legal executive by early next year. She has said that any funds not spent in this way will be donated to Vision Aid Overseas, a charity dedicated to helping those with poor eyesight.

Since she launched her GoFundMe page over the weekend, lawyers at Hodge Jones & Allen, a human rights and civil liberties firm, have called for a reinvestigation into the Durham saga. The separate campaign launched as part of a “citizen’s bid” and has received the backing of health workers and some families of coronavirus victims. If the evidence is there, the team, which is headed by partner and crime specialist Mike Schwarz, has said it will press for a private prosecution.

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