Quarantine hotel guest attempts to escape as Government faces human rights court challenge

Charles Hymas
·3-min read

Watch: Guest in quarantine hotel tries to make dash for freedom

A man attempted to escape from a quarantine hotel on Thursday, as an international law firm prepared to mount a High Court challenge over the policy's "violation of liberties".

Anthony Pium, a 30-year-old travel agent from east London, was involved in an angry confrontation with security guards as he tried to force his way out of the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow "to get some fresh air".

The father of one, who said he was going on hunger strike, claimed he was being held "under duress" and "against his will" after flying back from business in Brazil, one of the 33 "red list" countries from which returning travellers must quarantine in Government-approved hotels for 10 days at a cost of £1,750.

Anthony Pium held his laptop up to a window at the hotel, with a message typed on its screen appealing for legal help to be freed from quarantine -  Jonathan Brady/PA
Anthony Pium held his laptop up to a window at the hotel, with a message typed on its screen appealing for legal help to be freed from quarantine - Jonathan Brady/PA

Mr Pium held his laptop up to a window, with a message typed on its screen appealing for legal help to be freed from quarantine.

International law firm PGMBM, which has been approached by people facing hotel quarantine, will start legal proceedings against the Government for a potential breach of article five of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) within days.

Article five states that everyone has the right to liberty and security except in specific circumstances including "the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases".

However, PGMBM argues that the enforced quarantine of people without knowing whether they have Covid and are infectious could potentially constitute a breach and should be subject to judicial review.

The High Court action is expected to be led by two top human rights barristers, Tom Hickman QC, who led the case by BA, easyJet and Ryanair against the Government's original 14-day quarantine, and Adam Wagner, a long-standing critic of Covid restrictions.

Hotel quarantine, which was introduced from 4am on Monday, is modelled on schemes in Australia and New Zealand, but neither of those countries is subject to human rights legislation in the form of the ECHR.

Tom Goodhead, a barrister and managing partner of PGMBM, said: "We wholeheartedly appreciate the seriousness of the pandemic, its impact globally and the efforts of governments and healthcare workers to tackle it.

"This does not, however, mean that policies which constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights should not face careful judicial examination. It is time for lawyers to take a stand and ensure that the Government, which has shown scant regard for parliamentary scrutiny of Covid-19 legislation and regulations, is held to account.

"The imposition of preventative detention feels like something out of Minority Report. Why should it be presumed that law-abiding British citizens and residents would not adhere to home quarantine?

"The Government has given no indication as to when this policy may end nor has it provided cogent scientific explanations for it. We believe that these measures are disproportionate and cannot reasonably fall within the scope of the provisions of the ECHR."

The lawyers are initially acting pro bono as they prepare the pre-action legal letter to be sent to the Government within days, but aim to crowdsource the action, with £4,600 raised by Thursday afternoon.

Watch: UK Hotel Quarantine Begins - What Are the New Rules?