Coronavirus

High Court rules against Sasha Lord in hospitality reopening case

The ruling was followed by the Government’s Sage report, which found only 226 Covid-19 cases to be linked to hospitality since the pandemic began

The High Court has rejected Sacha Lord and Hugh Osmond’s bid to challenge the Government’s indoor hospitality reopening stall.

The case had been set in motion by Lord, Manchester’s night-time economy advisor, and Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns, who argued that a lack of scientific evidence had been provided to sustain the industry-wide closure.

Judge Julian Knowles ruled that advancing a judicial review to bring forward indoor reopenings would only be “academic” as the hearing would now not likely take place before 17 May.

Although orders to expedite the case had been given, the judgement was delayed due to a backlog in the court system.

Following the ruling, the Government’s Sage scientific advisory committee report was released, indicating that ministers had been told “eating out in any food outlet or restaurant was not associated with increased odds” of transmitting Covid-19.

The report found that only 226 Covid-19 cases could be traced to hospitality venues since the start of the pandemic.

Writing in the Telegraph, Osmond said: “This case is not ‘academic’ for an industry that is losing £200m every day it remains closed, for the over three million people who work in our industry, or for the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors forced into bankruptcy by government measures.  

“Our legal action gave them a fighting chance, yet once again in 2021 the strong arm of the state has come crushing down on hope and aspiration.”

He added: “The judge said that Covid ‘justifies a precautionary or cautious approach on the part of the Government.  

“But when a crucial Sage report is ignored, this goes far beyond caution and questions need to be asked about when this advice was sought and why this important evidence was not disclosed.”

Reacting to the court’s decision, Lord said that he was “disappointed with this outcome”, but will “continue to hold the Government to account and demand evidence-based decisions, rather than those drafted without detailed analysis or based on bias or whim”.

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