Ms Fay Harris joins Dr Cathy Gardner’s Judicial Review

Owl reveals the story behind the story!

Yesterday Owl noticed a short article in the Sunday Times (paywall) saying that Ms Fay Harris was applying to join Cathy Gardner’s legal action against health secretary Matt Hancock.

Ms Fay Harris’ father, Don, who died on May 1, was one of up to 24 residents of Marlfield care home who died, from various causes, after a Covid-19 outbreak in the 73-bed home in Alton, Hampshire. 

Owl thought the article lacked detail on the progress of Cathy Gardener’s case and has been doing some checking.

Owl understands that the the bare facts about Fay Harris joining the action are correct but the Times were given an exclusive detailed  briefing which they chose not to draw on – too critical of the Government? (The Telegraph broke the original story but only online – it was subsequently published by Sky News and the Guardian).

The key point in the brief is the open publication of the whole legal grounds – all the arguments Cathy Gardner’s legal team  are making and all the evidence. There are some real gems in the 90+ pages!

The legal action is being crowdfunded and has an even higher “stretched” target.

The briefing from Dr Cathy Gardner ran as follows:

Full claim filed; Boris Johnson’s misleading statements

Last Friday, 3 July, my lawyers filed my full legal claim in this case. Since then the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has continued to make misleading statements about the Government’s actions in respect of care homes during the pandemic. In response to the Government’s continued refusal to face up to and acknowledge its gross mishandling of this crisis, I have decided to publish my claim in full. It can be viewed  using the link here.  [Click on the word ‘here’ and it will take you to the document in a new tab]

The claim itself is legally complex. But one thing it does do is set out the facts on how the Government failed care home residents and workers. In doing so, it throws into sharp relief how Boris Johnson’s recent statements on the Government’s handling of the pandemic have been misleading. I would like to take some of Boris Johnson’s recent statements and see how they stack up against the account given in my claim.

Misleading statement #1: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have”  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/07/care-home-chief-denounces-clumsy-and-cowardly-boris-johnson-comments

One thing that’s become apparent recently is that the Government has been trying to shift the blame for the pandemic in care homes onto care homes themselves, and by implication those living and working in them. That strategy is clear from Boris Johnson’s statement, the other day, that care homes “didn’t really follow the procedures”. Yet as my lawyers explain in my claim:

(1) Care homes were being told specifically, until mid-March, that there was “no need to do anything differently”: see paragraphs 53 and 54 of my claim. So until mid-March, at least, there weren’t any procedures for care homes to follow, because Boris Johnson’s government was telling them to carry on with business as usual.

(2) Care homes were forced, throughout March and for much of April, to take in patients who had just been discharged from hospital and who had not been tested for Covid-19: see paragraphs 70 – 78 of my claim. There are even stories of hospitals, in following the Government’s instruction to discharge as many patients as possible, trying to trick care homes into taking them: see paragraphs 92 and 94 of my claim.

(3)  On 2 April the Government published guidance saying among other things that “care home staff who come into contact with a COVID-19 patient while not wearing PPE can remain at work”: see paragraphs 84 – 87 of my claim. This guidance was immediately questioned by industry bodies as being unsafe, which it clearly was: see paragraph 87 of my claim. So it appears that it was the Government, not care homes, who did not know what it was doing.

 

Misleading statement #2: “nobody knew early on” about asymptomatic transmission  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-care-home-deaths-coronavirus-apology-a9607691.html

Another tack the Government has adopted, to shift the blame, is to argue that it simply didn’t know, when formulating its policies on care homes, that Covid-19 could be transmitted asymptomatically.

But this, too, is wrong. As my claim makes clear, the Government’s own advisory group warned as early as January 2020 that the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic patients: see paragraph 40 of my claim. This fact was made clear to the Government on numerous other occasions early in the pandemic: see paragraphs 44, 45, 69 and 73 of my claim for what the Government knew about asymptomatic transmission as early as February and March. Not only that, asymptomatic transmission of viruses is well known and should have been accounted for.

 

The Government’s consistent failure to tell the truth 

Boris Johnson’s recent statements follow this Government’s consistent efforts to mislead the public over how it has handled the pandemic. In earlier false claims, the Government alleged that “right from the start” of the pandemic it had “thrown a protective ring” around care homes, and that it had brought in the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown. Both of these statements, too, appear to be untrue: see paragraphs 118, 145-146, 150 and 220-221 of my claim.

In the face of a Government determined to lie and obfuscate rather than face up to its failings, I will continue to fight for justice for my father and the thousands like him who have died, unnecessarily, in care homes in the course of this pandemic. I will continue to update this page as the case develops. Thank you to all who have donated or been following the case so far, and please do continue to spread the word.

 

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