Nazir Afzal joins legal fight for new inquiry into Dominic Cummings

Nazir Afzal, a former regional chief prosecutor, has joined a legal campaign for a new investigation into Dominic Cummings over alleged breaches of the coronavirus lockdown rules.

Afzal has urged his former employers at the Crown Prosecution Service, and the police, to pursue a case against the prime minister’s chief aide over his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle during the peak of the outbreak.

Afzal warned that if they did not investigate he would consider launching a private prosecution on “behalf of every citizen whose goodwill and generosity led them to make painful sacrifices in order to comply with the law and protect their fellow citizens”.

He has volunteered to become the figurehead of a group of “concerned citizens” who are raising funds for a legal campaign launched last week by lawyers with the backing of health workers and some families of coronavirus victims.

Afzal’s older brother Umar died of coronavirus on 8 April while self-isolating at his home in Birmingham. At that time Cummings was recovering from a suspected case of the virus while staying at a family property in Durham. Cummings and his immediate family left their London home on 27 March just after his wife began displaying symptoms.

Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, said: “There have to be consequences for [alleged] law-breaking otherwise the public lose confidence in those meant to enforce the law and lose trust in the law itself.”

Explaining his decision to join the legal campaign, Afzal said he was troubled by the way Boris Johnson tried to defend the behaviour of his influential aide, after the Guardian and the Mirror revealed Cummings’ movements in the north-east.

A three-day investigation by Durham police into Cummings’ travels found he probably breached health protection regulations when he took a 52-mile round trip to the town of Barnard Castle, County Durham, with his wife and son on her birthday.

But the force decided to take no further action and made no finding in relation to “stay at home” government guidance over Cummings’ initial decision to leave London for Durham.

Afzal said he had instructed Hodge Jones & Allen and the barrister Matthew Ryder, the lawyers behind the campaign to “get to the bottom of what happened and why”. He said he wanted to “better understand what the police in Durham and London knew and what drove the decision-making”.

He said the Cummings affair exposed a power gap in society. “The big divide was never between leave and remain, nor black and white, nor men and women, nor north and south. It’s between those with power and those without.

“So when I witnessed the prime minister and others wrapping a shield around Cummings I was horrified. I watched him get the privilege of a press conference in the garden at 10 Downing Street when any other civil servant … would be denied even the ability to issue a press release on pain of discipline or worse.

“I read how he and his wife wrote about their experience of Covid-19 (one experienced by thousand of others including my late brother) without telling us that he had breached the regulations that were in place to protect every one of us, by taking the disease to Durham, at a time when London was drowning in Covid whilst the north-east wasn’t. Worse, he helped draft the regulations.”

Mike Schwarz, a partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “The Metropolitan police do not appear to have investigated properly, promptly or at all, serious allegations about Dominic Cummings’ behaviour in London and elsewhere.

“The public’s continued sense of injustice, frustration and anger can only begin to be addressed if there is openness and rigour on the part of the police. Otherwise the perception remains and mounts that there is one rule for ordinary citizens and another for those in government.”

Last week in a separate legal campaign, the director of public prosecutions, Max Hill, was threatened with a potential judicial review over the failure to investigate Cumming.

Ryder is a member of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian Media Group.

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