A fundraiser set up to pursue a private prosecution against Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings, who drove over 200 miles from London to Durham with his family (to self-isolate at his parents' home) while displaying coronavirus symptoms, has raised over £12,500.
Cummings later drove to Barnard Castle with his wife and son on 12 April (his wife's birthday), claiming he was checking that his eyesight had fully recovered following his illness (in rare instances coronavirus is believed to cause conjunctivitis).
Many people were (and still are) upset that the PM has refused to reprimand Cummings, who they say went against the widely known government guidelines to "stay home". Johnson said Cummings displayed "instincts of every father” and acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity” by driving across the country while ill, to ensure he had appropriate childcare.
Still, many are continuing to call for Cummings to be sacked, saying that it was not made clear by the government that this was an option should a parent fall sick, and claiming that it's 'one rule for the elite, another for us'.
Many are angered that they adhered to the rules and didn't see family or friends and say that Cummings actions have compromised the public's trust in the government. A live petition calling for him to be sacked currently has over 1 million signatures.
The GoFundMe page looking into privately prosecuting him was created by Mahsa Taliefar, a law graduate from London, who told Cosmopolitan that she believes his actions were hypocritical. "You can’t have a position of that calibre to advise the nation one thing and then do another thing without taking consequences for your actions," she said.
Taliefar argues that Cummings' actions discredited government lockdown rules, leading some members of the public to disregard them (possibly to the detriment of public health). "Fellow citizens looked at what he did and how he was allowed to evade justice, and decided they too wouldn’t comply [with lockdown measures]. People who previously were complying with the regulations then sought not to adhere to them fully due to Dominic Cummings actions. This has created a so called ‘Cummings defence’," she said.
"I have instructed Waterfords Solicitors and they've been very positive," Taliefar says. "My solicitor Mr Akunjee reviewed a number of potential applicable criminal offences and sees no bar to prosecuting Mr Cummings. We are now in the process of instructing a QC barrister."
Taliefar says her reason for wanting to fund a private investigation into Cummings' actions is nothing to do with wanting him to receive a fine, but points out that thousands of other citizens have been given them for breaking lockdown rules.
"It seems unfair that parents who did something similar to Dominic Cummings and were fined for breaking the rules [have] not have their fines revoked. Dominic Cummings seems to behave as if he is above the law and he appears to have broken it with impunity."
Durham Constabulary released a press statement on 28 May saying, "[We] have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention."
Speaking on the support she's received so far, Taliefar said, "I've received over 830 donations, one donor said 'There’s a principal here that needs protecting or democracy is in danger’."
She added that another wrote her a message saying, "Sorry I couldn't donate more, because I'm on benefits and have very little money. I'm extremely angry at this vile creature because he was a major player in making the laws that prevented me from seeing my mother when she died of coronavirus in a care home."
'The private Prosecution of Mr Dominic Cummings' GoFundMe page can be found here.
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