Michael Brentnall from Brentnall Solicitors, a human rights law firm in Belfast, has taken on many cases for people who have been adversely affected by new legislation introduced by the Stormont Executive in the past 18 months.
During an interview with EMeRgent Sea, Brentnall discussed how some of the legislation is not compatible with the Human Rights Act and these are now being challenged in court.
“There have been so many legislative changes over the past 18 months and legislation has been passed that I think we never believed would. As it stands mask wearing is mandatory in certain situations. However, there is an exemption … and when a person raises that term, reasonable excuse or exemption, that should stop a conversation. It should not go any further than that. For somebody to enquire, in relation to your medical status or health status, would be a cause of contention and it would be something that we would seek, certainly, further investigation in relation to it,” Brentnall said.
His offices sent pre-action correspondence to the Northern Ireland Executive questioning what was mandatory or merely advice. At that time the health regulations had been amended 11 times. There was a degree of uncertainty, even within the government, about what was mandatory and what was advice.
Brentnall explained that the Equality Commission tends to deal with short-term, immediate, issues and is a vital step before taking matters further. A court tends to deal with longer term policy issues. In regards to self-isolation, police powers to enter a property or fixed penalty notices normal procedures were being stalled under the health regulations so the next step is to go to the courts.
Their first legal case related to police powers to gain entry to a private dwelling which also resulted in fixed penalty notices. The case was heard in early September and they are awaiting a decision. There are a number of cases that were rolled into one where fixed penalty notices were issued regarding public protests. But Brentnall’s case stood out as it also involved the powers police have to enter a private dwelling.
A warrant is needed to enter a private dwelling and there has to be either an immediate risk or entrance must be directed by a medical professional in carrying out their duties, it cannot be an off-duty nurse, for example. In Brentnall’s client’s case there was no warrant and there was no medical emergency in relation to an infected person or specific health risk.
Brentnall Solicitors also currently have several cases where people were told they cannot enter certain premises as they were not wearing a mask, after explaining they were exempt, they were then challenged about their exemption. One such case is currently being litigated under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Other legal cases relate to self-isolation. One case involves a child, who on three separate occasions had been forced to self-isolate. The child’s parents received a letter that their child “must” self-isolate. However, “legislation does not require you to self-isolate,” Brentnall said.
During his discussion with EMeRgent Sea, Brentnall briefly mentioned his personal experience regarding his mother who was in a care home. He was not allowed into the care home to visit his mother but after she was admitted to hospital, he managed to take her home to care for her in her final weeks. He is taking legal action on behalf of his deceased mother but was not able to go into detail as the case is ongoing.
In March 2021 the Belfast Telegraph reported the Covid death toll among care home residents had reached 1,000 – 764 (27%) residents died in care homes while 236 died in hospital – and care home residents made up about 35% of deaths linked to Covid-19.
In September the Belfast Telegraph reported the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robert Swan, had “ruled out calling for a police probe into the Covid-19 deaths of more than 1,000 care home residents in Northern Ireland.”
Operation Koper was launched in May by a special Crown Office to examine Covid-linked deaths at 474 care homes in Scotland. However, Swan said, “I have no plans currently to call for an investigation into care home deaths similar to Operation Koper in Scotland.”
Swann’s response came to light just days after the findings of an official NHS probe following the death of a former care home resident raised serious questions about her care.
According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (“NISRA”), from 19 March 2020 to 12 November 2021 there have been 3,762 deaths labelled as Covid deaths, 860 (23%) of which have occurred in care homes. An increase of 96 Covid deaths in care homes since the Belfast Telegraph’s report in March and it’s not clear how many more have died in hospital.
During the “pandemic,” up to 8 December 2020, when the Covid injection campaign was launched, in all settings 1,572 people were recorded as Covid deaths. Since then, post-injection campaign, there have been an additional 2,190. More Covid deaths occurred after the Covid injection roll-out than before it began.
As of 20 November, 85% of the entire population 12 years and older, and 100% of people aged over 60, had received at least one Covid injection.
According to a report by Off Guardian in April 2020, Northern Ireland’s HSC Public Health Agency was releasing weekly surveillance bulletins on the pandemic, in those reports they defined a Covid-19 death as: “individuals who have died within 28 days of first positive result, whether or not Covid-19 was the cause of death.” The weekly surveillance bulletins have since been replaced by Department of Health updates which refer to either “Covid-19 related deaths” or “Covid-19 deaths.” Presumably the underlying definition of the different terms has not changed since April 2020.
Because Northern Ireland records a death as a Covid death purely based on test results “whether or not Covid-19 was the cause of death” perhaps it is more reliable to view the impact of the “pandemic” and related measures by comparing all-cause mortality.
All-cause deaths peaked in the 2020 pandemic year after the first lockdown began. The highest peak in 2021 – which exceeded that of 2020 – occurred four to six weeks after the launch of the Covid injection campaign and a second lockdown had begun. In fact, according to NISRA’s Weekly Deaths Tables, Week Ending 12 November 2021 data there have been, for the same eleven months, 141 more deaths in the year of the “vaccine” than in the year of the “pandemic”: 15,075 (2021) vs 14,934 (2020).
It seems neither restrictions on freedoms nor the Covid injection campaign in Northern Ireland are helping to reduce deaths. Not only should Swan investigate the 1000 Covid deaths of care home residents up to March 2021 but also the additional deaths since then.
- Brentnall Solicitors: Human Rights Law Firm
- Protection against disability discrimination
- Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
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