NEWS19 January 2022

Government wins appeal on Covid messaging contract

Legal News UK

UK – The government has won a bid in the Court of Appeal to overturn a previous High Court finding that its award of a contract to a company with links to Dominic Cummings was unlawful.

High Court London

Last June, the High Court ruled that the £550,000 contract awarded to policy and market research consultancy Public First was unlawful since it gave rise to “apparent bias”. The company was asked to conduct Covid 19-related work with focus groups, as well as carry out research into the effectiveness of public health slogans.

Public First co-founder James Frayne worked with Boris Johnson’s former adviser, Cummings on a Eurosceptic campaign back in 2000.

In the original ruling, Mrs Justice O'Farrell found that the bias was not a result of the existing relationship between Cummings and Public First, but because of a failure to consider any other research agency and also due to the fact that the objective criteria used in the selection was not recorded.

However, that verdict has now been overturned by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett. He summed up the decision by saying: “The fair-minded and reasonably informed observer would not have concluded that a failure to carry out a comparative exercise of the type identified by the judge created a real possibility that the decision-maker was biased.”

Not-for-profit campaigning organisation the Good Law Project, which brought the original case, has said it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.