Retired Top Judge Slams UK Govt Over Pandemic ‘Vandalism’

Written by Andy Rowlands

These are the words of Jonathan Sumption in an article for the Daily Telegraph and deserve to be read widely. Jonathan Sumption is a retired Supreme Court judge, author and historian.

Lockdown laws leave no place for common sense or individual judgment. Stopping the spread of Covid-19 is assumed to matter more than other health issues, more than ordinary freedoms, more than common humanity.

What are the broader lessons to be learnt from the case of Ylenia Angeli? Last week Ms Angeli fell foul of the Government’s guidelines for care homes during the Covid-19 epidemic. These guidelines are not legally binding, but in practice care homes must and do observe them.

Old people are being locked in and deprived of the support of their friends and families. Outside contact, when it is allowed at all, takes place through closed windows or Perspex screens in conditions resembling prison visiting rooms. Ms Angeli’s 97-year-old mother has dementia and lives in a care home under this regime.

Ms Angeli hugged her mother in the entrance hall of the care home and then tried to take her back to her own home to care for her herself. For this she was arrested for assault by the police and taken away, while her mother was returned to the care home as if she was a piece of baggage.

Downing Street was sufficiently embarrassed to put out a statement, and a junior minister called Helen Whately was wheeled on to make some robotic comments about how distressing but necessary it all was. Distressing it certainly was. But what kind of society have we become where such a thing is thought necessary?

It is important to understand that this incident was not a freak occurrence. It is the logical consequence of government policies. It follows from two features that have characterised those policies from the start. The first is that they are based on top-down commands supported by legal coercion. The second is that stopping people getting Covid-19 is assumed to matter more than anything else: more than any other health issue, more than ordinary freedoms, more than common humanity.

Ms Angeli’s problem is just one example of a broader attitude exemplified by Chris Whitty’s remarkable evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last week. He described the Government’s countermeasures as “economically and socially destructive” but necessary because there was nothing better if one was to combat Covid-19. Implicit in this statement is that combating Covid-19 is all that counts. He did not seem to have any conception that there is a level of economic and social destruction which is worse than Covid-19. We reached that level long ago.

The problem about coercion is that law, like all top-down systems, works in broad predefined categories. Unlike voluntary systems, it leaves no place for common sense or individual judgment. Yet old people are not a single undifferentiated mass any more than young ones are. They are individuals, with their own vulnerabilities, their own needs, and their own support networks. Their problems are better and more sensitively handled by people who love them than by decrees issuing from Whitehall. This is an area in which the state has exceeded its competence, both practically and morally.

And what of the constant mantra that destruction and inhumanity are justified by the need to combat the virus? This idea is the foundation of all that the Government has done. But it is absurd, especially in the case of old people like Ms Angeli’s mother. The average age at which people die with Covid-19 is 82.4 years. These are people at the end of their lives. The quality of the few months left to them matters much more than the quantity.

The admirable work of the Alzheimer’s Society has shown how fast people with Alzheimer’s and dementia deteriorate when they are deprived of social and family support. I have seen this in my own family. These two related conditions are the biggest causes of death in the UK. They kill many more people than Covid-19, which is not even in the top 10 causes of death.

Yet the terrible reality is that for the Government deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s do not really matter. This is all driven by fear of political fallout. Cases like Ms Angeli’s have become just another issue of public relations management. Ministers care more about deaths from Covid-19 because they have a bigger media profile and the Government is more likely to be blamed for them. That is the level to which we have sunk.” (Emphasis added in all paragraphs)

The original article can be found in the Daily Telegraph.


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