Court says UK government acted ‘unlawfully’

London’s High Court has found that Britain’s government acted unlawfully when it gave a contract to a public relations firm which local media said was run by friends of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

UK coronavirus

The court agreed with a complaint that the awarding of the contract “gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

The court said the government had shown “apparent bias” in awarding more than 560,000 pounds ($794,000) to Public First to test public opinion on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Good Law Project, a campaign group, brought a judicial review against the government, saying the contract was awarded without any competitive tenders in the early stages of the pandemic.

Finola O’Farrell, a High Court judge, said the government was entitled to award the contract because the work was needed.

But she said the failure to consider any research firms “would lead a fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision-maker was biased”.

The government argued that there was no time to run a normal competitive selection process.

Cummings said he had been more concerned with trying to save lives than ensuring all decisions taken during the first wave of the pandemic were lawful in the eyes of the court.

“On this basis the courts shd rule that many 2020 decisions were similarly ‘unlawful’ as I & the Cabinet Secretary repeatedly told officials ‘focus on imminent threats to lives/destruction, not process/lawyers/Potemkin paper trails,” he said in a tweet.