Coronavirus laws a ‘secondary consideration’, says Sumption

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Former Supreme Court justice says people should decide for themselves whether or not to obey the law

People should decide for themselves whether or not to obey coronavirus laws, according to a former Supreme Court justice.

In an interview this morning, Lord Sumption said that the law was a “secondary consideration” and that people should make their own decisions about the risk of being exposed to coronavirus.

Sumption, a well-known lockdown sceptic, argued on the BBC’s Today programme that the latest set of coronavirus regulations — published overnight to give legal force to the “rule of six” — were “pointless, arbitrary and unnecessary”.

The former judge thinks that older people should be allowed to take their chances with the virus if they prefer that to cutting off contact with their family and friends.

At the end of his interview, he was asked “would you encourage people, if they feel strongly, as you do, to flout these laws?”.

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Sumption’s response:

“I would say that people should make their own decisions in the light of their own health and that the law should be a secondary consideration for them”.

The ex-Supreme practises what he preaches, having previously admitted to breaking coronavirus laws during the initial lockdown. In July, he told interviewer Joshua Rozenberg: “I don’t accept that there is a moral obligation to comply with the law. I myself certainly complied with the regulations until I came to the conclusion that they had gone on longer than even the government’s own justification and support — when, frankly, I just stopped”.

The “rule of six” regulations, which were published last night just minutes before coming into force, among other things make it a criminal offence for people to “mingle” at large gatherings.

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I agree. While I completely understand this is a novel virus and we need to control it best we can, on the flip side I’ve had 2 letters over the last few months directly from the NHS about a very important, woman specific appointment I require. However, my GP isn’t taking any face to face appointments so I can’t get one, even with the NHS sending me reminder letters about how crucial it is. How many illnesses (including serious, life threatening ones like cancer) are going to go undiscovered and untreated until it’s too late?! I’d rather take my chances against COVID…


Tim Green

All viruses are novel, as are different speices of other living things and their phyla groups. These pandemic challenges are nothing new as Britain Europe and the rest of the world have had to deal with this kind of situation throughout human history right up to the 1917 Spanish Flu and the following virus out breaks to the present day Coronavirus. It is a medical fact that this present virus has got to run the course of infecting the whole of the present human race before it becomes genetically weakened. That is why this so called pandemic will go on for longer, due to these attempted restrictions which by the way will not save lives as is foolishly thought by the government, as viruses do not respond to these measures. The whole strategy is to try and stop a drop in population levels because many societies today are largely High Tec and consumer driven, plus there is the new house and rent property and infrastructure Barons, who’s pockets would lose out if the human population took a dive. As previous societies only two hundred years ago were low tech and next to no desire or use for consumer goods as into days world, the loss of population had no last effect upon the economic structures back then. I do one am highly suspicious that their is another political hidden agenda and the Coronavirus has created the opportunity for disreputable greedy men to exploit.



This may be true but when I referenced controlling it best we can I am referring to ensuring that the rates of infection do not cause hospital admissions to soar too high and cause medical resources to be overwhelmed. Regardless of how dangerous the virus is or what you think of the people making money off it (which I agree is disgusting), medical resources becoming overwhelmed and in turn causing more deaths (outside of COVID) is a very real issue. Whether putting restrictions in place is just delaying the inevitable is another story.


Truth Serum

The virus does not need to run its course if there is a vaccine created which will deliver small doses to people and help them develop antibodies to counter it. However if that is not possible, the alternative to delay until there are therapies and treatments available to fight it and reduce death rates is also there. The death rates are already so low compared to the start. Even as the number of infected people has increased, the death rates are much lower than at the start. So delay as a strategy will save a lot of lives, and the projections from the medical experts bear this out.



Lord Sumption – one of the few voices of reason. We need more people like him brave enough to stick their neck out. These policies are ruining people’s livelihoods and lives.



Nice to be patronised by a privileged Old Etonian. Like the rest of his ilk, he would not be worried about feeding his kids if his family quarantined and fell ill. Well, if he contracts covid, I am sure he has made it clear he is not wanting to clog up medical resources ahead of those that obeyed the law.



“who will likely be thick” – it appears you’re badly educated.



This is something only a person who hasn’t spoken to a lot of Old Etonians could think.


Anon (3)

He acknowledges his choice, and he claims his right, to possibly harm himself, but nowhere do I see any acknowledgment of his duty not to pass on infection to others.


Anon (4)

> his duty not to pass on infection to others.

There is no such duty in law.

I take it that you haven’t left your house since March even once? Otherwise, you may find yourself in breach of this mystical duty of which you speak.



So being selfish and killing others is OK. Nice.


Anon (3)

Since when has there not been a duty not to harm others? Pretty basic negligence tort, or so I learned 55 years ago. As to your other somewhat inflammatory comment, I am a widower of 79 and classified ‘vulnerable’, and so self-isolated in ‘solitary’ for 26 weeks. Since ‘release’ I have worn a mask conscientiously, but have seen others not doing so. Sadly, I am only too aware how little some people have cared in present circumstances, lacking in self-control, selfish and unprepared to adapt. There is no doubt whatsoever that infection has spread due to people who felt themselves to be above the law.


Oh dear

“Since when has there not been a duty not to harm others? Pretty basic negligence tort, or so I learned 55 years ago.”

Wrong. There exists no such sweeping and wide-ranging duty.

And while there does exist a narrow duty not to pass on certain diseases to others (for example, STIs) there exists no general duty at all not to pass on all infection to others.



It is not really about legal duty is it, it is about a moral duty (that being the difference at the heart of the neighbour principle). People who want to act as they please and risk harming the vulnerable are selfish and immoral. They make break legal norms too, in criminal law or in civil law, but the bottom line is that compliance with the regulations is a fairly simply thing to do that shows you are not a selfish self-absorbed tool.



Is it not immoral, for jobs loses due to the lockdowns, cancer patients not being seen, children’s metal health absolutely bashed, food poverty, the gap between richer and poorer growing. We can shield the vulnerable all 4.8 million of them and lets invest lots of money in doing so, lets make their lives as best as possible whilst Covid19 is still around. Then the rest of the population 60 or so billion can get on with life and decide if we want to take the risk or not. If we also are going to have statistics thrown at us each day, lets see the number for everything all deaths please. Also last year we didn’t have a high rate of deaths for flu, did covid at the start of the year take out those who would have been caught by the flu? Most of the European countries that had a low flu death rate in 2019 have had a higher covid death rate. Most countries that do not see Flu deaths have very low covid19 death rates, can this be verified? Can we have these sort of questions answered by the media.


“It is about a moral duty”.

On the basis thousands die from flu every year, I presume you refuse to leave your house every year during flu season as part of your moral duty not to infect people?


I think the more pressing issue is what a 79 year old widower is doing on a student legal news website.



He has said from the start in answer to the question ‘what if you pass it on to others’ that if they want to self-isolate that is their concern. They are taking a risk by choosing to come into contact with others, just like we all take risks every day. When you look at the raw data instead of the hype the risks are very low for those under 65. Many over 65 would rather take their chances than to live out their last years alone and in fear.
Don’t assume what their choice may be.



The privileged classes do not owe moral duties to those whose parents were unable to buy advantages in life.



He is a stain.



Bit rude to stains. This sort of selfish crap kills people.


Bon Tobin

How can he be a stain? I am 72 and had the virus in late Dec 2019. I was obviously infected by somebody else, and was’nt in bed with it. I see footage of a few people in intensive care for several weeks but nobody has asked me for my experience


Just Anonymous

Sweden did not go into lockdown, yet its per capita death statistics are lower than the UK’s.

These sort of coronavirus restrictions may reasonably have been considered necessary and proportionate at one time. And they may well make the more highly strung members of the population feel better.

But do they actually make us safer? Are they actually worth the price in economic damage, education damage, mental health damage, physical health damage (in terms of all the non-covid diseases that are now not being detected and managed)?

I very much doubt it.



I agree with you comments however the UK has some cities with very high density housing. Some of this housing is occupied by several generations in the same household.

Would have probably been better to lock down the high density areas with the most cases.

I don’t know how the economy will come back from this. I do not know anyone who has had Covid but I know a number of people who have been made redundant or had to close their business after spending years building it up.



Sweden is still far, far above comparable Northern European countries. The population of Sweden are also much healthier, they have better healthcare in general, and more low density housing.

The UK has 626 deaths per million. Instead of comparing to Sweden, which is still 11th globally with 574 deaths per million, why aren’t you comparing to other European countries like France (459 million), the Netherlands (363 per million), Switzerland (237 per million), Portugal (181 per million), Germany (113 per million), Denmark (108 per million) or Austria (85 per million), all of which had some form of lockdown and in most cases are coming out the other side now, with people going back to work, schools open and restaurants and cafes functioning?

The real story here is that COVID in the UK would be EVEN WORSE if there had been no lockdown. As it is, the UK locked down too late, did so extremely badly with practically no organisation or proper provision for the resulting issues, and has been too incompetent to put in place the infrastructure required to get things going again safely. Now a moronic government look at Germans and Dutchies going into the office and start saying we should do that too, except they are too incompetent to actually provide enough tests or develop a track and trace system that allows them to do so without a massive second wave.



Belgium went into one of the most strict lockdowns and has 868 deaths per million.



Why are you even bringing up one more example when I’ve just provided half a dozen that prove you are wrong? If you accept that examples of other countries are relevant then clearly the evidence is that countries with effectively managed lockdowns have, on the whole, done better than those with no lockdown (Sweden) or badly managed lockdowns (UK, US). If you are rejecting the evidence then what is even the point in having a discussion?

If you reject the evidence, then you are welcome to argue that hundreds of thousands of extra deaths are worth it so that you can keep going to the pub. You only want to bring up a couple of cherry picked examples so that you don’t have to make that morally unjustifiable argument, but also can’t bring yourself to criticise your beloved government of morons.



As you have noted, there are other elements in play than the type of lockdown i.e. “Sweden are also much healthier, they have better healthcare in general, and more low density housing.” – as a reason why they have fared better than the UK.

There are also other elements in play in the figures. I.e. what constitutes a Covid death. All the countries are not counting deaths the same way. It is widely documented that the UK includes death “with Covid” rather than “of it” on a death certificate and this goes into the figures. This is error in purely relying on statistics. My point with Belgium is that there is always an example that shows that lockdown may have been a bad thing.

I don’t see where your point about hundreds of thousands of extra deaths come from. That is not the case. The reality is that deaths were inevitable in this (and each one is tragic). However, there is a distinct possibility that the vast majority of Covid deaths is because Covid got there marginally before a different disease i.e. flu did. UK deaths are currently below normal rates – a sign that this is the case.

My main point is that whilst initial lockdown was the right thing, I agree with Lord Sumption – we now know a lot more about this disease and to go into a second lockdown (or even an imitation of one) is too harmful for the country (economy and for people’s mental health).

The point about whether this point is selfish and does not consider other people’s risk of catching the is negated by the fact that everyone can continue to shield if they wish.

Lord Sumption is saying that everyone (including Individuals that are more at risk) ought the have a choice whether or not to shield or continue (it is up to them if they take the risk). However, the entire country should not be shut down because of this.

The virus is always going to be here – and some miracle vaccine will not eradicate it. Do you propose we live like this forever (with deaths being read on the news like football scores every eve)?

There are 400 cancers every single day. This is not reported, however, the government could significantly eradicate a large part of them by banning smoking or alcohol but it does not. People are allowed to take make their own decisions.

Otherwise what’s the point.


Lord Sumption favoured the herd immunity way of managing Covid. Sweden does not seem to have fared worse than anyone else so he may have had a point.



A population of 10 million is quite different to a population of 66 million.



Sweden is 11th globally in deaths per million and its officials have expressed regret that they did it wrong and caused lots of unnecessary deaths compared to Germany for example. Interesting definition of “no worse than anyone else”.



They only announced regret in how care homes were handled. This “regret” was widely misconstrued and exploited by UK media.



It is quite clear from the number of up votes and down votes, and the lack of balance in those numbers that someone is IP spoofing or similar in order to pursue their agenda.

I do not think I have every seen so many votes on comments in an article in such a short space of time, particularly on an article like this.

There are some sinister people about.



Amusingly (I think), said individual has now down voted this to oblivion. 10 upvotes and 1 downvote yesterday and now look…!



For some reason on some LC articles it is possible to vote as many times as you like. This is one of them.



You simply cannot accept that the overwhelming majority of people reading these comments agree with Sumption and think you are speaking rot.



Is it not immoral, for jobs loses due to the lockdowns, cancer patients not being seen, children’s metal health absolutely bashed, food poverty, the gap between richer and poorer growing. We can shield the vulnerable all 4.8 million of them and lets invest lots of money in doing so, lets make their lives as best as possible whilst Covid19 is still around. Then the rest of the population 60 or so million can get on with life and decide if we want to take the risk or not. If we also are going to have statistics thrown at us each day, lets see the number for everything all deaths please. Also last year we didn’t have a high rate of deaths for flu, did covid at the start of the year take out those who would have been caught by the flu? Most of the European countries that had a low flu death rate in 2019 have had a higher covid death rate. Most countries that do not see Flu deaths have very low covid19 death rates, can this be verified? Can we have these sort of questions answered by the media.



You mistake how the public is reacting to the pandemic. Economic normalisation will only follow restoration of public health confidence, and that confidence requires numbers to be down and people to comply with what are quite simple rules. Do you see people rushing back to Pret? No because everyone expects things to get worse and bunkum like that spewed by Sumption will only make things worse not better.



As someone in a high risk category I’d like to punch selfish privileged jerks like this.



So the solution is for healthy people to stay inside, not meet friends, and generally not live their lives until a vaccine is found, which could take up to 5 years?

To me, it would make more sense for the vulnerable to stay inside and avoid those risks. It’s common sense – even with following the rules I wouldn’t go and visit my high risk mother, who I haven’t seen for 8 months now, because COVID remains a risk regardless of how careful you are.

I feel particularly sorry for the young people who are having the best years of their lives ruined because of this (career wise and socially), and will ultimately end up paying the most for this back in taxes etc.



Then stay at home. Don’t attempt to impose your whims on the rest of us.


I choose life

But you are expecting otherwise healthy people to join you in prolonged isolation from which there seems to be no plan in place to end it. Please don’t say it will end when we know we will be 100% safe, that will be never!


F*ck the scamdemic

Finally someone who gets it. The response to this virus has been vastly blown over proportion. The death rate is hardly higher then the flu. Most of those that died died because of other underlying causes which were mostly disregarded to fuel the scamdemic scare machine. The actual death rate excluding co morbitues less than 2%. The death rate does not justify recent spate of draconian legislation.


Jacqui Stevens

I agree with you .Masks cause Hypercapnia- breathing in Carbon Dioxide- hand gel is toxic and social distancing does not help the herd immunity. This is a depopulation Agenda – 21-30 . Bill Gates says in his TED TALKS he has the answer to the Worlds over population and it is his vaccination program and I fear the majority will sadly be queueing up for it. It is interesting that most of the people that have died from this PLANDEMIC have had their yearly flu shot. Thankfully I avoid vaccinations much to my Doctors annoyance. Check out DEAGEL UK and see what they forecast for the UK population in 2025.


Andrew Miles

I am someone aged 62 and in a high risk category as a cancer survivor, but I am entirely with Lord Sumption. Why should I expect society to close down for my sake. It is a preposterous and extremely selfish desire in my opinion. The healthy have to be allowed to get on with their lives – as indeed I have done as I have chosen not to shield and have no intention of doing so. Covid is a risk to me but so is getting into a car, flu and any number of other ways that I could meet my end. As far as I know none of us are immortal and it is how we “live” our lives that counts, not just the length of them.



People like this should have to fill out a form confirming they do not wish any NHS treatment in the event that they fall ill. Then I’d have less problem with them.



Why? The NHS is about universal healthcare. It has to treat people as it finds them – smokers, alcoholics, obese, underweight, rich, poor, leave or remain voting. That’s the beauty of it.


I choose life

When you consider that people like myself who have looked after their own health by exercising, eating healthy food etc also not bothering the NHS with minor ailments or turning up at A&/E every Saturday night drunk I think your comment is grossly unfair. You wouldn’t expect a smoker, drinker or over weight person to be turned away from treatment on that score. It’s tantamount to discrimination! I would expect to be treated the same as anyone else



What’s with the sudden influx of oldies here?



They want to tell us the rule of six et al is all silly until they are drowning in their own mucus, at which point they would recant if they did not have a ventilator tube down their throat and they were sedated for the final days of their lives.


michael hall

Does the rule of 6 come under civil law or criminal law ?



It can be enforced by the criminal law. But non-compliance could have civil consequences too.



Reading some of these responses to Lord Sumption’s views, makes me feel that this has nothing to do with a novel virus and more to do with a war on people’s liberties and rights to express what they feel without being shut down and condemned if others disagree.
For the record, it seems clear that the response to the pandemic has been blown out of all proportion with politicians too scared to act with common sense and simply going along with other countries.


A decent woman

Lord Sumption has admitted to breaking the law and is now inciting other people to break it too. He should be prosecuted for this – as should other high profile people who have done similarly. The law, like the Health Service, must treat everyone in the same way. That is what justice means. These people believe that they can demonstrate their power by flouting laws which apply to the rest of us. If they can do that then there is no justice.



What about those who instituted the lockdown, stopped the NHS from treating the vastly more dangerous illnesses (cancer, heart disease, etc.) caused the biggest recession in history and condemned more people to death than the virus could ever kill?
Are there suitable charges for that kind of behaviour? I’m not sure if treason fits it legally, but it certainly fits it morally.


Keith Reeder

So this reactionary old fart reckons we have an absolute right to decide for ourselves, eh?

Here’s a little thought experiment for those of you who agree with him. Exchange “Covid” in his argument, for “automatic weapon”.

Because if his argument had ANY legitimacy, we would be equally within our rights to potter about randomly spraying bursts of lead into the street…


Archibald Pomp O'City

That’s a really interesting perspective, and I honestly would never have thought of recasting the argument in this way.


Ian Mitchell

It is even worse in Scotland – and Lord Sumption’s point applies more directly. The essence of the RULE OF LAW is reciprocity between the rulers and the ruled. That is what Sturgeon refuses to concede, and which is undermined by lies, authoritarianism and pork-barrel clannishness. In this sense, she is “on the same page” with Salmond’s patron, Mr Putin.
Ian Mitchell has just published his book about threats to the rule of law in Sturgeon’s Scotland, combined with an investigation in to the quality of the judiciary who will, hopefully, hold the country together when the inevitable coup comes. It is called THE JUSTICE FACTORY: CAN THE RULE OF LAW SURVIVE IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SCOTLAND?
Having lived for twelve years in Russia, he is able to make the comparison between Sturgeon and Putin, and it is one we all ought to be extremely worried about. You can get more details of the book here:


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