New Covid-19 quarantine rules to face court challenge
A strict quarantine regime for unvaccinated arrivals imposed as part of the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic are “oppressive and trample on Bermudians’ constitutional rights”, a senior British lawyer said today.
Courtenay Griffiths, a Queen’s Counsel based in London, has been hired by a group of Bermudians to challenge Government plans to introduce new quarantine laws next month.
The group, Constitutional Freedom Bermuda, has launched a fundraising campaign on the CrowdJustice platform to pay for legal action.
Anyone who arrives in Bermuda without vaccination must quarantine at a Government-approved centre from June 6 at their own expense for 14 days.
The rule will also apply to residents who campaigners insist could quarantine at home.
The group has also questioned curfew regulations and claimed they were unnecessary.
Dr Griffiths, working with Charles Richardson, a Bermudian barrister, will file a constitutional motion at the Supreme Court next Monday.
The motion will ask for the new regulations be put on hold at least until their legality can be argued in court.
Dr Griffiths said today that the measures had to be held up to scrutiny.
He added: “The attitude of those behind those decisions seems to be ’we know what’s best for you, so simply do as we say’.
“That is patently unacceptable. The Bermudian public are clearly not satisfied with what they perceive an overzealous overreach by the Government which has resulted in a grossly unacceptable infringement of their constitutional rights.”
Dr Griffiths said: “The choice to be vaccinated rests with the citizen and the citizen alone.
“The state should not, whether expressly or by implication, force its citizens to get vaccinated.
“One class of people should not be separated, segregated and prejudiced simply because they do not bow down to the pressure campaign of the Government.”
Dr Griffiths added that curfews “and other onerous restrictions” had hit people’s ability to earn a living.
He said that Government needed to prove that the “gross infringements” were crucial.
Dr Griffiths highlighted: “The Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 guarantees fundamental rights, liberties and freedoms that we all are entitled to.
“While we accept that the Constitution permits the Government to interfere with personal liberties, such interference must be reasonably necessary, reasonable justifiable, and in the public interest.
“We remain doubtful that they will meet that threshold.
“Given the important public considerations at stake, it is imperative that this matter is finally determined by the courts.”
Dr Griffiths asked the public: “If these onerous regulations are simply accepted, what precedent will that set for the violation of your constitutional rights in the future?”
Mr Richardson said he was in contact with the individual behind the group, but that its members wanted to remain anonymous.
He added that a court action was the fairest way to resolve the controversy.
It is the second legal challenge that Government has faced over Covid-19 regulations.
Mark Pettingill, a lawyer and former Attorney-General, said quarantine rules were “draconian” and that he had 15 clients prepared to file a constitutional challenge if the Government pushed ahead.
But David Burt, the Premier, insisted that the restrictions were needed.
He said earlier this week: “It’s important for all Bermudians to remember that supervised quarantine has been very effective in many countries that have eliminated local transmission and their societies have returned to normal, holding large events without masks.
“This is what we want for Bermuda, and it is my hope that we as a country unite to do what is necessary to move Bermuda past the pandemic.”