Owl’s talons are well and truly crossed, and will remain so until the day of judgement.
Cathy Gardner: The trial is over, we await the verdict
Our trial concluded today, March 21st 2022, after 6 days during which the Government has sought to justify its failure to protect care home residents during the first wave of the covid pandemic. It has sought to justify the approach it adopted by stating that it considered the risk of asymptomatic transmission to be low at the beginning of the pandemic. It said that its policies therefore on discharging patients from hospitals into care homes, without testing or isolating them, was therefore justified. The Government also sought to argue that the pandemic was an exceptional situation where it and the NHS faced very significant challenges. It was therefore justified in adopting the policies that it did.
During the trial my legal team challenged the Government’s version of events and their justification for the policies they adopted. In particular we pointed out that the risk of asymptomatic transmission was acknowledged early on in the pandemic and the particular risk this posed to care home residents. Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, explained on the Today programme on 13th March 2020 that there was likely to be some degree of asymptomatic transmission, and that care homes were a particular concern. The Government was aware of the risk. It could and should have taken a more cautious approach that would have protected lives. As my legal team told the Court on the first day of the trial, the Government’s policies were always a recipe for disaster in care homes, and disaster is what happened.
What was very unusual in the trial was that there was no direct evidence of what information the Government or NHS were provided with in order to make the key policies we challenged. In a normal judicial review, the decision maker explains what advice they were given, how they weighed it and why they reached the decision they did. On the key decisions in March and April 2020, this was completely absent. The Government has had ample opportunity to provide evidence that the risks to care home residents were taken into account, and that ministers thought about how to mitigate those risks. It has failed to do so. The obvious conclusion is that the lives of vulnerable people were simply overlooked – with devastating consequences.
We now await the judgement of the Court. This could take several months.
I wish to thank everyone who has given so generously to bring us to this critical point. We still have a mountain to climb to meet the legal costs so please do pass this message on if you can. All donations are very much appreciated.