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Lord Sumption warns of ‘totalitarian society’ in latest attack on lockdown policies

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Lockdown sceptic accuses government of setting fire to the constitution as it tries to rule by decree

Lord Sumption wowed a virtual audience last night with a hard-hitting attack on the government’s coronavirus policies, accusing ministers of deliberately stoking up fear and acting with a “cavalier disregard for the limits of their legal powers”.

The former Supreme Court justice warned that British society was becoming “totalitarian” and argued that the government had no power to pass lockdown regulations under the Public Health Act.

Sumption has been a leading lockdown sceptic for some time but last night’s speech marked an escalation in his warnings of the dire consequences of “government by decree”.

Delivering an online lecture organised by Cambridge University, Sumption warned that “the British public has not even begun to understand the seriousness of what is happening to our country”.

But the 71-year-old doesn’t seem to be experiencing much tyranny himself. Introducing him, Cambridge don Sarah Worthington revealed that Sumption had recently been spotted “cycling through the vineyards in northern France” and was giving the talk from Milan via Zoom.

The silk took an hour off from living it up to warn that the government setting sweeping restrictions without the involvement of a “relatively supine House of Commons” was a democratic disaster. Sumption said:

“The sheer scale on which the government has sought to govern by decree, creating new criminal offences, sometimes several times a week on the mere say-so of ministers, is in constitutional terms truly breathtaking.”

Sumption’s legal argument was that lockdown laws are unlawful in their current form. He pointed to the famous case of Ex parte Simms, where the House of Lords held that “fundamental rights cannot be overridden by general or ambiguous words” in an act of parliament.

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The government has passed the main lockdown regulations under the Public Health Act 1984, which does contain a power for the government to make regulations to fight infectious diseases, but it is “couched in wholly general terms”. Relying on that act to authorise sweeping control over healthy people’s lives, Sumption said, is inconsistent with the principle of legality in Simms and so the regulations could be quashed on judicial review.

But his main theme was about the dangers of meekly accepting government by decree even with a national emergency to justify it. To cheers in the YouTube comments and on Twitter, Sumption declaimed:

“This is how freedom dies. When societies lose their liberty, it is not usually because some despot has crushed it under his boot. It is because people voluntarily surrendered their liberty out of fear of some external threat.”

And he said that the situation contains the “authentic ingredients of a totalitarian society” and “marks a move to a more authoritarian model of politics which will outlast the present crisis”.

Sumption was delivering an annual law lecture at Cambridge, sponsored by magic circle law firm Freshfields. The text had evidently been circulated in advance, receiving blanket press coverage yesterday long before he opened his mouth.

Watch Sumption’s lecture in full below:

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59 Comments

Incandenza

Sumption is right. It is simply unacceptable to impose draconian restrictions on our fundamental rights in the name of “saving the NHS”. The ultimate result will be an authoritarian society and economic collapse.

The mean age of death from COVID-19 is circa 82 years old – similar to the life expectancy in the UK. Even now, amidst the so-called “second wave”, overall mortality is broadly consistent with the usual levels at this time of year (according to the figures released by the Office for National Statistics). Hospitals are said to be “overwhelmed” and “close to capacity”, yet this is frequently the case in October/November.

We cannot just wait for a vaccine. We need to live our lives without fear, in the recognition that a perfect vaccine might never be available. Whilst the scientists on SAGE provide valuable scientific advice, they cannot provide advice on public policy. The time has come to end the panic and get on with our lives.

(165)(20)

not at all

What about we refrain from making assertions on matters we do not even begin to understand, namely infectiology. I doubt Gov has any interest in slowing down the economy. They’re taking action based on scientific evidence.
On good old Jonathan, it’s not the first time he expresses some questionable personal opinions.

Bodjit

“infectiology”???

As for statistics, numbers can be played with to suit whatever!!

infectiology

looool infectiology uno

Jenny

Are you asserting that Lord Sumption doesn’t no about such matters ……? Your not serious right ……..!

Bob Todds Brother

*Know, just saying.

Wallid Ismail

You missed the *You`re* ~ if you`re going to be dick at least be an accurate dick, just saying

Nigel

scientific evidence that has been proven to be grossly overstated & based on modelling, not actual evidence.

ste

right, firstly lets get something straight the virus is a hoax, no one has died from it as it does not exist! it doesn’t need to people die all the time from many respiratory diseases! it is therefore very easy to tell those who get ill that they have this mysterious CV19! My mother went in to hospital with a bacterial chest infection that was labelled as CV, now even the most simple of you out there must know you do not treat a viral infection with antibiotics, she was in iv antibiotics and saline drip! when she was told she (being quiet knowledgeable in biology) pulled them up on this, also they almost instant signing of DNR document that the media and government are keeping under wraps, that’s right they are getting any one who is classed as elderly or “useless in their eyes” to sign these even if they are not fully compos mentis! on top of that no one in her ward (which happens to be a CV ward “the eyes roll”) is actually suffering from the plethora of symptoms that seem to cover every base so they can say you have it! now the science, I have an Applied Biochemistry Degree I Qualified back in 2001, I have worked in labs, and have moved on to other endeavours and have a degree in engineering as well. Now, I can say with 100% certainty that this virus is a complete scam! it is for one purpose control! the systematic control of us all, our money, our lives, we will ahve to scan in to go anywhere! we will be fined and jailed if we do not comply! this is happening right now so no citation is needed! it has been reported in the British medical journal regarding operation moon shot (which again is happening right now in Liverpool) the main extract from that is the enforcement of complaisance. if you refuse to be tested for this fake virus, or refuse the vaccine or refuse to download this track and trace (which will hold not only your location, but know exactly where you are in relation to anyone else, who you are with, for how long, how long you spend in a particular location, it will hold you financial information, your login for every single aspect of your life.) Then they will be able to prevent you going to any venue, including shops, workplace, even your friends and family. they will basically put you under arrest. these laws are a dream for those in real power and we seem to have all invited it to our lives! I’m ashamed that so many so called intelligent people are so ignorant!

David Reardon

I agree. And it should be noted that Sumption made these statements from outside the UK, where he is not directly or even personally affected by any of the lockdown restrictions that the UK and devolved governments have introduced.

I also note that he has directed his attack specifically at the UK government (acting in its capacity of being the de facto government of England), but he has not mentioned the fact that the devolved governments have all introduced far harsher measures in their repective countries. Not only that, like all critics of the lockdown measures, he has not offered any realistic alternatives to the governments actions that would command not just the support of the majority of MPs but the majority of the British people, the majority of whom, as far as I can tell, are not so much opposed to the present restrictions but resigned to them until a realistic alternative comes into play.

For those unaware of the case, Ex Parte Simms related to a matter of the right to freedom of expression of Mr. Simms and other man, who were both serving life sentences for murder, and who brought judicial review proceedings against the Home Secretary’s contention that they could not have oral interviews with journalists, in which they wanted to protest their innocence, unless no part would be published. As a result, they contended that this impinged upon the right of journalists to free speech under the European Convention on Human Rights article 10, because practically the opportunity for any investigation into their convictions would be inhibited by not allowing them to speak.

And while the Appeals Court did, indeed, rule (in this particular case) that “fundamental rights cannot be overridden by general or ambiguous words” as Sumption says, what he is doing is applying the terms of a ruling that applied to wholly different circumstances, knowing full well that the lockdown Regulations are neither genreal nor ambiguous in their wording.

In other words, his Lordship should know better than to apply the law in so general and casual a manner, which is, after all the basis of his claim.

Bodjit

Yes, I do agree with you, it is now endemic, and we need to stop the mass hysteria! The number of deaths being reported changed to number of positive “cases” as those numbers were far greater than the number of deaths. To actually confirm a “positive” from the swab, the swab should then be cultured to check it is a true positive NOT a false positive……so how many are, in reality, actually positive…?? Yes it can be argued that the death rate “where there has been a positive COVID test in the last 28 days” has increased, but some of those deaths are NOT from COVID, but DUE to Covid……
Also the deaths averaging over the last 5 years, dipped in June and July to BELOW the 5 year average…..as some deaths were brought forward a couple of months.

Robin

Not from Covid, but with Covid, seems rather more appropriate.

ste

there hasn’t been any cases of anyone, anywhere dying of covid as it does not exist! people dying are dying from everything that has existed for a very long time! people are told it is this by the hospitals (which lie through their back teeth and get extra funding for each case) by these test centres, which the tests are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. People are living in a sustained amount of fear and therefor susceptible to anything the government put forward to protect them, that coupled with a very poor knowledge of biology & immunology is just a recipe for well gullibility!

Ed

“The silk”? …. The former Justice of the Supreme Court please!

Who M.D.

What was wrong with “Law Lord”?

Anonymous

Someone forgot to take their medication again…

tokpep

Ok boomer

terriot

Note how Prof Worthington disagrees with Sumption’s views and so pettily tries to discredit him even before his talk starts:

‘Sumption had recently been spotted cycling through the vineyards in northern France and was giving the talk from Milan via Zoom.’

Jennifer

Yes I noticed that too.

Hermione Weasley

Author, are you meaning to challenge Sumption or are you just mocking him?

Lockdowns are more damaging than Covid-19.

Many states, including us, are sleepwalking into disaster.

Property Barrister

Whether or not you agree with Lord Sumption’s views generally, his explanation of the law on lockdowns from 15:20 – 26:25 of the video is very good and accessible, highly worth a watch.

Jonno

The media brands critics of lockdown as crackpots, scientific charlatans or cruel right wingers. It’s bizarre. There is no effective scrutiny of these measures either in parliament or elsewhere.

The death rates don’t justify the economic impact of lockdown and given that vaccines may not even provide a solution, we’ll probably have to learn to live with the virus at some point anyway.

And what does cycling have to do with anything? Pathetic.

Sumptin Sumptin to Say

It’s very true, democracy dies in darkness but also at the whims of opportunistic politicians who take advantage to play on peoples’ genuine fears. There is, to me, no rhyme or reason to the three-tier system which, if anything, only serves to highlight racial and class divides across the country. After all, there are areas of London with high infection rates but lesser restrictions in place.

This lockdown (too late if the reports are to be believed), wait and see approach isn’t working and simply won’t work as we already know people will and are skirting the rules. How many uni students will remain in their halls for Christmas? Who will supervise the mixed households rule? Will police move door to door and demand identification? Sounds oddly familiar to me and not in a good way.

End the lockdown. Let free people choose what to do with themselves. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. As long as you’re protecting yourself (HANDS, FACE, SPACE!!) you should be fine, isn’t that the whole point? I don’t think we can continue using the NHS as a crutch.

surprised by scientific knowledge around here

We did that over summer. What happened to infection rates? Skyrocketed.

I know this government is incompetent and all, but do you, seriously, think they haven’t considered all options? What exactly do they stand to gain from shutting down the country?

Just don’t throw some conspiracy theory at me please.

G

:I can think of 4 reasons why they will prolong this pandemic at least in the UK and that’s why the manipulation
1.Brexit was supposed to shrink the economy by 10% – that can be blamed on Covid
2. Patrick Vallance and Matt Hancock pharmaceutical connection (i.e.) vaccines conflict of interests
3. CO2 reduction agenda 21 sustainable development
4. Power is intoxicating

If prevalence of the disease in population is 0.1% then 10 people out of 10000 are detected to be positive right? But if the test has 99.9% accuracy of detecting negative people then 9990 in 10000 people will be negative but 10 negative people won’t be detected so they’ll be false positive. So you have 10 true positives and 10 false positives. So half of positives (50%) are false positives?
The government says that false positives are low. Maybe only 10 in 10000 which is 0.1 percent. But it’s misleading what the government says because people want to know how many false positives are from ALL POSITIVE results NOT from all people tested
It gets even worse if the test detects less than 99.9% negative results. It might be for example 99% or 96%. So with 99% (not 99.9%) you’d have 100 false positives from 10000 people tested. It’s only 1% of false positives from 10000 people tested but….if prevalence of the disease is say 0.5% than you’d have maximum 50 true positives from 10000 people tested. So it’d be 150 positive results (of which 100 would be false positives i.e. 2/3 would be false).??‍♂️
And let’s say that the virus DISAPPEARED. Prevalence is 0% . But you keep testing entire population with 99.9% acuracy of detecting negative results. You’ll still have 0.1% false positives. Very low. But 0.1% from 67mln is?….67 thousand false positives. They’ll call these results positive. No symptoms.
For that reason it’ll NEVER end until Boris Johnson says so??‍♂️

Concerned

Racial divides? I understand class divides but how do the 3 tier systems highlight racial divides?

Lucy L

Sorry I don’t know who this man is, clearly a boomer, but he really has no idea about the issues he’s talking about. Does he not care about the death of nearly 100,000 people in this country?

anon

Lmao u high?

Astonished

On a legal website and don’t know who Lord Sumption is? Did you wander on here by mistake?

Free Press?

Is anyone aware of the Ofcom CENSORSHIP of ‘anti-lockdown material’. Yes, the media in the UK are actually being censored about it. This is why the Great Barrington Declaration which should have been front page news, is hardly even heard of..

not at all

Give me one reason – other than a conspiracy theory – for why the government would want to damage the economy?

Second, this declaration has been reported. In the Economist of this week for example there is a lengthy and balanced story on this.

Put simply, there is no reason why we should risk ”herd immunity” when we are some five to six months from a vaccine. Moreover, it’s becoming increasingly clear that ”immunity” from Covid only lasts around six months. This makes ”herd immunity” hardly an immunity at all.

Of course, if not finding a vaccine in the short/medium-term is not possible (not current scientific expectation) then we may/should change strategy.

Strongy

Why is a vaccine going to last longer than herd immunity ?
If we get a vaccine ……

Paul

Er https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/193075/Note-to-broadcasters-Coronavirus.pdf

They have banned broadcast of “Medical advice that may be harmful” (in their opinion) and they can impose rapid regulatory sanction in event of breach.

Re who would benefit – the police having access to all our names, addresses and mobiles through track and trace (no more cumbersome subscriber applications). Does anyone think they will delete that? Really?

Who benefits from deeper and ongoing State control? Answer: those in power.

enlightened

Do you seriously believe that if they want to find your name, address and number, that they can’t do it already? Stop believing everything some YouTuber has told you using their “real” news.

K

Writing all opposing views off as conspiracy theory is a symptom of the toxicity of the authoritarian regime we find ourselves under!

A little research shows antibodies wane not immunity. Our immune system makes replica antibodies when reinfected.

Think about it

I’ll give you one reason, Mr Not At All: “Power”

G

If immunity after catching the virus and recovering from it with mild symptoms is the best immunity you could possibly get (better than vaccines – that’s why vaccine producers are interested in people who recovered from Covid to take part in producing the vaccine) but only lasts 6 months- then the immunity from the vaccine will last even shorter

Not Rupert Murdoch

The declaration was one of the leaders in this week’s Economist, perhaps you should read better news

Anonymous

Yes, there are many stories explaining why Barrington espouses a whackjob theory and was generated by an American far right think tank.

Alan

Perhaps we should let this virus run riot, and then request that he does a re-run when he is gasping for air and begging for a ventilator?

Larry

That would be so jokes fam

Jacqui Stevens

Alan this is not about Covid it is about control of the population .Check out DEAGEL UK and see the 2025 reduction in our UK population down from 67,000,000 to 15,000,000.
DYOR

Janice Jacobs

Jacqui is correct on DEAGEL a military organiation its there in black and white depopulation for every country … estimated 50 million people in the UK are due for death by 2025……..what are the plans for the burial of 50 million, or is it all a lie? Its our world too we cannot allow this..

Anon

From an ivory tower the views are different

not at all

I’m surprised by the number of infectiology experts here at Legal Cheek.

The assumption that the Government is imposing restrictions lightly, and not based on extensive scientific and medical advice makes may fear for the next generation of lawyers.

I challenge anyone to give me a reason – other than a conspiracy theory – for why the Conservatives would want to damage the economy. Because I can’t see any.

Self employed and responsible for feeding family and keeping roof fixed and lights on

Because Governments and politicans gave up ‘leading’ the public a long time a go. They slavishly follow public opinion (1) because it keeps them in power and (2) because they are scared of it. 90%+ of people have never had an original thought in their lives, do not create wealth and have never built a business so unsurprising that the vast majority are happy with lockdown. The wealth creators and small business owners, whose collective endeavours we rely upon to keep the wheels of capitalism going, have been royally shafted by lockdown. It is a disgrace.

Added to the above is the pervasive culture of health and safety that continues to ruin industry and endeavour and is particularly prevalent in the public sector. We are a culture of blame and litigation (over law’ed) and shame (social media).

Jon

Power

Rubber dinghy rapids bro

So they can’t be blamed for not doing anything. It’s political arse covering.

Lali

I am not a lawyer but believe strongly in the integrity and necessity of a justice system that applies the investigative power to prove reasonable doubt. I am a scientist, by qualification and experience of 20 years working in multidisciplinary labs around the world and another 20 years working for one of the biggest pharma and diagnostics industry in this world.
It is the first time I post an answer publicly so I believe that this time is important. Science is only valuable and real when ALL opinions are allowed to be expressed and debated in public and when what we knew and accepted as valid for over 200 years is respected.
I do not entertain conspiracy theories but the fact that such a blatant attack on people’s liberties is disguised as a necessity based on ONLY ONE OPINION whilst hundreds other experts express doubt about its accuracy, leaves me with severe doubt that the government decisions regarding the lock down are entirely focused on what is best for us.

Doug of l of

I think your basing your assumption of short term immunity on antibodies, t cells may provide significant protection particularly if one has already had a Coronna virus. British Medical Journal from last month is a good read on this: BMJ 2020;370:m3563 is the citation with six studies suggesting prior protection amongst people with no known exposure to covid 19 covering a range of 20% to 50% across the studies.

Doug

I think your basing your assumption of short term immunity on antibodies, t cells may provide significant protection particularly if one has already had a Coronna virus. British Medical Journal from last month is a good read on this: BMJ 2020;370:m3563 is the citation with six studies suggesting prior protection amongst people with no known exposure to covid 19 covering a range of 20% to 50% across the studies. In My

West London chick

I saw him near the Saatchi gallery once, weird guy.

Anonymous

Sumption knows all about viruses and economics because his parents were rich and he went to Eton. Privilege lets you know about everything.

O E Z

pathetic inverse snobbery – reflective of the general cancer that is insidiously eroding all of our freedoms. Wake up!

Anonymous

You need to learn what inverted snobbery means. And I don’t consider a minor inconvenience of wearing a mask or other temporary steps to protect the at risk and in turn to protect the economy in the mid term to be and erosion of my freedom. The moaners are just selfish.

Anon

Awful inverse snobbery. Oct 29 2020 8:08am: you need to grow up. I appreciate that you might lack the education and hinterland of Lord Sumption, but you will learn something from him (and others of a higher social class).

Privilege by the bucketload

Bellend with bucket loads of privilege on display. It’s a bloody global pandemic. Clearly used to the world revolving around him. You think the government didn’t have to put measures in place during WWII? More people have died with Covid in the UK in the last 7 months then died in the entirety of the Blitz! Obviously our government is entirely incompetent and not fit for the job, but we need to do what we can for the time being.

I smell BS

Erroneous comparison. There was a clearly defined exit plan for the end of the ww2 measures. Of course such measures would be rendered entirely redundant with the defeat of Germany. The government have no exit plan for ceasing covid restrictions. This isn’t some war that where by we will al wake up to an announcement that covid has been defeated, everything can go back to normal. Many virologists are saying just like the flu covid is something that we are going to have to live with. Either we do so or we prepare to reconcile ourselves to the government using covid to introduce draconian restrictions for the foreseeable future with no end in sight. It is very clear that the government and the msm have an agenda.

The Covid death rate in Africa is extremely low despite many countries not imposing lockdown. Why is this being ignored and downplayed? Why is the government not focusing on using remdesivir to tackle covid? Remdesivir has been proven to be effective against covid. Or hydroxichlorinique which is abundant in Africa and could be the reason why the death rate is so low across the continent. Instead all we get from the government is, draconian policies, a stupid vacuous slogan to justify draconian covid related policies and the prospect of mass vaccination.

Sumption is very right when asserts that the ingredients for authoritarianism exists in the UK at the moment. Lockdown does not make sense. Scientists have stated a vaccine will not provide permanent immunity because the virus keeps mutating. We need to strive towards herd immunity.

If you do not believe that herd immunity works, then look at the current death rate in Sweden.

The alternative is frequent lockdowns and frequent mass vaccinations assuming the vaccine actually works. Nevertheless, the government is likely to ignore the science highlighting the triteness of mass vaccination and lockdown due to vested interests. Mass vaccination serves the interests of the pharmaceutical companies who stand to make billions as government’s around the world use taxpayers money to buy dangerous rushed vaccines from these companies.

Considering, that infertility and even vaccine related death has been an effect of mass vaccination programs in India and Africa, it is highly likely that depopulation is also a goal of mass vaccination. This is probably why DEAGAL predicts a significant reduction in the UK’s population by 2025. This possibility cannot be discounted considering that the government have given pharmaceutical companies blanket civil and criminal immunity for any adverse effects produced by the covid vaccine.

If the vaccine was perfectly safe why would the government need to do this?

As many others have stated lockdown is fundamentally about social control, and normalizing authoritarianism. The lack of exit planning for coronavirus suits the interests of authoritarians that are hell bent on eroding our freedoms. Now that the so called war on terror has run its course they need a new excuse to further erode civil liberties.

A. Moan

We will all just talk moan and idley chat. That’s where it end because honest people do nothing to change their circumstances, or not enough. Sad but true.

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