Lawyers from Broudie Jackson Canter and representatives of COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK have had their fight for justice backed by Labour leader Keir Starmer.
This week, they met with the Labour Party Leader and Deputy Leader, Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, to share stories of their lost loved ones and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. The leaders pledged their support and said that they would urge the Prime Minister to also meet with the families to hear their testimony.
The group, which is made up of more than 1,250 relatives of those who lost their lives to the virus in the UK, were told by Keir: “You have asked us to stand with you and we will – you have asked us to fight with you and we will.”
He agreed to “walk with the families as they deserve justice, accountability and answers”, stating: “All of us have a duty to make sure that there aren’t other families going through what you’ve been going through.”
The group will also be meeting with Ed Davey, Acting Co-Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in the coming days.
Last month, the group instructed lawyer Elkan Abrahamson, from Liverpool-based law firm Broudie Jackson Canter, to assist them in their campaign for justice. They wrote to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to formally lodge their request for the Inquiry to begin immediately.
Matt Fowler, co-founder and spokesperson for COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: “It’s so disappointing that the Prime Minister is refusing to meet with, or listen to, bereaved families – maybe then he would understand the many urgent lessons that need to be learnt, including making sure that care homes and hospitals are stocked with PPE; checking that testing works so no-one is discharged without a test; and ensuring that the 111 service is appropriately identifying those who need urgent care.
“The commitment for an ‘independent Inquiry’ at some point in the distant future is a long way from what families need to see. We need to know that any Inquiry will be public, with the ability for families to contribute their experiences and that it will have the power to access all of the evidence and witnesses needed.
“We also believe that a part of any Inquiry must begin now to take fast action in order to prevent further unnecessary deaths, should we encounter a second wave.
He added: “Our families have now met with Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner and we’re seeking to meet with the leaders of all major parties in order to build support for our aims. He is the first party leader to meet with us to offer his condolences and express genuine empathy for our suffering – something the PM has yet to do.
“We continue to be ready and waiting to speak to the Prime Minister to discuss our call for an immediate phase to an Inquiry. This Inquiry must be ordered now in order to prevent the further 120,000 deaths predicted next winter if measures are not put in place, as stated in the ‘Preparing for a Challenging Winter’ report.”
As part of their campaign, the group are questioning why the Government did not act sooner and also why COVID-positive patients were allowed to be discharged from hospital back into their care homes, putting other vulnerable residents at risk.
Elkan Abrahamson, Head of Major Inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, said: “A Public Inquiry is inevitable and essential. Boris Johnson has refused to meet the bereaved families and has declined the immediate start to any Inquiry, which is essential as it has the power to compel witnesses to testify.
“We remain concerned by the Government’s continuing refusal to take action and be accountable for their handling of the pandemic. How many more people have to die before the Government allows a statutory Inquiry to begin?”
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK petition to hold a Public Inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic now has 160,000 signatures. You can sign the petition here https://www.change.org/p/hold-a-public-inquiry-into-the-government-s-handling-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-covid19