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A law graduate who believes the actions of Dominic Cummings were like “spitting in the face” of everyone who adhered to the coronavirus lockdown has launched an online campaign to privately prosecute him and seek justice.
It has been a month since news broke that Boris Johnson’s special adviser took his wife and child from London to Durham during lockdown at the end of March after his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms.
At the time, the government had instructed the public not to travel – and to self-isolate completely if they or their families developed symptoms.
Cummings sparked widespread outrage with his behaviour – particularly when it emerged that he had also made a 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle which he claims was to test his eyesight before he made the journey home after suffering from suspected coronavirus.
There were calls for his resignation but instead, during an extraordinary press conference, he said he didn’t regret his actions – which he says were motivated by concerns about who would look after his child if both he and his wife developed coronavirus. He insists he didn’t break any lockdown rules.
Mahsa Taliefar, a law graduate who lives in London, told HuffPost UK Cummings’ behaviour and the way many in government defended him have caused “irreversible damage”. She is determined that he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it – and has launched an online campaign to raise funds for a private prosecution.
She is calling on the nation to help her in her mission to hold the “powerful” to account.
“It was like Dominic Cummings was spitting in the face of everyone who adhered to the lockdown,” she said.
“People were not able to see their families and friends and were not even able to bury their loved ones and grieve properly.
“This is because we were all following the laws that were put into place to protect the public.
“Dominic Cummings had a direct hand in the making of those Covid laws and I was extremely offended when he didn’t even apologise for breaking the rules – he seemed very arrogant and there were people in government standing by him.”
“It was like Dominic Cummings was spitting in the face of everyone who adhered to the lockdown.”
Mahsa, a freelance paralegal who also does pro bono work for Somers Legal Advice Centre in London, says her actions are motivated by holding a person who actually had a hand in the Covid-19 legislation to account.
“I have a friend who is a single mum and she had coronavirus symptoms,” she said.
“But she didn’t get in a car and drive elsewhere to try and get help with childcare. She stayed at home with her child as those were the rules.
“It seemed really unfair that parents who did something similar to Dominic Cummings and were fined for breaking the rules did not have their fines revoked.”
Mahsa, who is from an Iranian background, says Dominic Cummings’ behaviour is also a kick in the teeth for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who have been harder hit by coronavirus and are more likely to die of it.
“People from ethnic minority backgrounds are affected more by this virus and have less money and resources and are less likely to have powerful friends and connections,” she said. “Everything Dominic Cummings has, most people from ethnic minorities don’t.
“That makes me angry as when people from ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, why should someone well off and more powerful put other people’s lives at risk by breaking his own laws?
“People from ethnic minority backgrounds also tend to have more people in our households and a lot of families have grandparents living with them. So it is really difficult for these communities to understand why someone like Dominic Cummings would travel so far and potentially put his parents at risk.”
“Why should someone well off and more powerful put other people’s lives at risk by breaking his own laws?”
Mahsa has launched a GoFundMe page to meet the costs of privately prosecuting Dominic Cummings. She believes it will cost £300,000 to go all the way, and any funds not used for the private prosecution will be donated to Vision Aid Overseas – a charity dedicated to helping those with eyesight problems.
She has raised just over £6,000 so far and will now be getting a barrister to look into the issue.
“First, I will instruct a barrister to look at what the laws and guidelines were at the time.” she told HuffPost UK. “People were only allowed to go out once a day for exercise and could only leave the home for essentials.
“There was no mention of being able to drive 300 miles for childcare or to get in your car to test your eyesight.”
Mahsa told HuffPost UK that, while she has had a lot of supportive messages since launching her GoFundMe campaign, she has also been targeted by abuse and misogynistic comments from Dominic Cummings’ supporters on social media.
“I have been subjected to nasty comments about my facial features and hairstyle,” she said.
“There have also been many Cummings supporters who have suggested that the money may be going towards aesthetic lip fillers and hair maintenance.
“I find this totally unacceptable. This campaign has nothing to do with my gender or looks. Many people supporting Dominic Cummings have also aggressively told me to ‘move on’ – but we should not until he does.”
Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor who Mahsa has instructed to act for her, confirmed to HuffPost UK he had taken on her case.
“Mahsa Taliefar approached us and said she was extremely offended by what she had seen from Dominic Cummings’ speech and asked if a private prosecution was possible.
“We have had a cursory look at the Covid regulations and we do not see a bar to a private prosecution. We will be getting a QC in due course to look into it further and bottom that out.”