The United Kingdom’s High Court has ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it handed a contract to a company run by associates of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former aide.
The court yesterday said the government had shown “apparent bias” in awarding more than 560,000 pounds ($794,000) to Public First to test public opinion on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The public relations company, which undertook research for the government on its public health messaging around the coronavirus pandemic, is headed by James Frayne and his wife Rachel Wolf.
The pair previously worked with Cummings and the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove.
The Good Law Project (GLP), a campaign group, had brought a judicial review against the government, saying the contract was awarded without any competitive tenders in the early stages of the pandemic.
In her ruling, High Court Justice Finola O’Farrell concluded the government’s failure to consider other firms could be seen as indicating a “real danger” of bias.
“The defendant’s failure to consider any other research agency, by reference to experience, expertise, availability or capacity, would lead a fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision-maker was biased,” she said.