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Campaign group launches judicial review challenge against Welsh Ministers over “unevidenced” Covid Pass scheme

Campaign group Big Brother Watch has launched a judicial review challenge against the Welsh Government over its ‘Covid Pass’, claiming that the scheme is unlawful “as it is disproportionate and unevidenced”.

Big Brother Watch said it would seek full disclosure of the documents and advice that led Welsh Ministers to implement the scheme.

The group said its lawyers had engaged in weeks of correspondence with the Welsh government, but ministers had so far refused to agree to repeated requests to publish their correspondence.

The civil liberties group added it was applying to the court for permission to publish its legal claim which quotes from the correspondence “in the interests of open justice”.

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Big Brother Watch claimed that the case for Covid passes presented so far was “exceptionally weak” and that, the scheme would be stopped if it were being monitored properly.

The legal challenge claims that the mandatory Covid pass scheme involves “significant and far-reaching” rights interferences and results in “a fundamental alteration in the relationship between private persons, by forcing sensitive matters of personal significance to be revealed between strangers as a condition of exercising freedom of access to places, gatherings of people and the provision of services in the public sphere.”

Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said: “We support proportionate measures to protect public health, but there is exceptionally weak evidence supporting the role of Covid passes.

“We’re calling on the Welsh Government to disclose the documents and advice they say they’re relying on to impose the Covid pass scheme on people in Wales. Their refusal to do so raises suspicions that the government’s case is weak or non-existent. The reluctance to be transparent now even extends to an unwillingness to consent to Big Brother Watch publishing the legal papers from its own claim, presumably because they quote from correspondence that attempts to justify the scheme.”

Big Brother Watch has instructed Charlotte Kilroy QC of Blackstone Chambers, Joseph Barrett of 11KBW, and John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP

Marker said: “In maintaining the Covid Pass Scheme, the Welsh Government is exercising an unprecedented level of control over the rights and freedoms of the public. In these circumstances, it is essential that the Welsh Government is transparent about what evidence they have relied upon to impose the scheme.

“Unfortunately, to date, such evidence has not been forthcoming.

“It is also important that the legal process on a matter of public interest like this is transparent, which is why we are seeking the Court’s permission to allow Big Brother Watch to fully publish details of its claim.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Covid Pass has been introduced as one measure – among many – to help keep businesses open while also helping to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS.

“The venues where the Covid Pass is required have been chosen because they are mostly indoors and they see large numbers of people congregating closely together for prolonged periods of time. As we know, the longer large numbers of people are close together, especially indoors, the greater the risk of transmission.

“A stakeholder group were kept informed of plans and decisions. We continue to support businesses that are required by law to ask for a covid pass with a range of advice and guidance.”

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