UK: Buying injustice

2 February 2021 — Good Law Project

Tomorrow [3 February]  sees our legal challenge for Government’s failure to disclose details of COVID-19-related contracts. The case is being brought by Good Law Project along with a cross-party group of MPs – Caroline Lucas (Green), Debbie Abrahams (Labour) and Layla Moran (LibDem).

Ahead of the hearing, Government has disclosed how much public money it has spent defending its conduct. It makes for an eye-watering read.

Government has used a huge legal team – nine solicitors and five barristers – to prepare for a one day hearing with just one witness. And its costs stand at a staggering £207,784. A private litigant doesn’t have the bulk purchasing power of the state and its costs are often higher. But Good Law Project’s costs stand at just £81,854. And that £207,784 has been spent defending what Government has explicitly admitted to being persistent and unlawful conduct.

We have managed, with your help, to crowdfund £100,466. But you don’t need a maths degree to see the problem.

Given the continuing super-sized costs bills it’s hard not to wonder whether there is a correlation between how politically sensitive a legal challenge is and how much Government spends. In our judicial review over the award of huge PPE contracts to weird counterparties, it has estimated its costs at an enormous £1million. This is a sum unprecedented in our lawyers’ experience of judicial review proceedings. It would be hugely worrying if Government was incurring huge costs to try and scare off legitimate public interests challenges.

If you are in a position to donate to the legal challenge over Government’s failure to come clean on COVID-19 contracts, you can do so here: crowdjustice.com/case/fight-for-transparency/

As our lawyers state in the skeleton argument, it was only when we and our fellow co-claimants began to highlight Government’s unlawful failure to publish COVID-19-related contracts that senior officials began to seek to rectify the situation. Our legal pressure is working and we do not intend to back down now.

Thank you,

Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project

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