In an One on One interview with TNN, criminal defense lawyer Charles Richardson explained that, up until January 2020, Bermuda’s Public Health Act outlined certain provisions only for people suffering from contagious communicable diseases.
The Coronavirus was added to the list of diseases outlined in the Act since arriving on Bermuda’s shores early last year, as well as two major amendments to the act; sections 107A and 107B.
“Section 107A, for the first time ever, gave the Minister of Health the power to declare a national public health emergency,” Mr. Richardson said. “Once that declaration was made, Section 107B took over. This section gave the Minister the ability to ask the Governor to make certain regulations. This gave the governor the power to make certain regulations which restricted, and in quite a draconian way, the movement of healthy people.”
The shelter-in-place regulations, quarantine regulations and the like have all come from section 107B.
Mr. Richardson believes that there are some aspects of the Quarantine Act which may be unconstitutional, namely how it appears to differentiate between the way that vaccinated versus unvaccinated people are being treated.
“ The fact is that people have a right to choose whether or not [to get vaccinated]. When they choose that, they should not get treated any differently,” he said. “The government can erode some of the people’s constitutional rights, but they must have a good reason, they must back that reasoning up with sound evidence and they must show that what we have done is the minimum to reach the desired objective.”
Under normal circumstances, Mr. Richardson believes that the quarantine regulations would be a violation of human rights. However, Section 107B specified that the human rights act should have no effect whatsoever in regards to the public health guidelines that are currently in place.
“ What the Government did do was preserve the validity of Bermuda’s constitution when measured against the regulations,” he said. “The only way that they could oust the validity of the constitution was to actually amend the constitution and that was not going to happen.”
Despite being hired to represent the pressure group Constitutional Freedom Bermuda, Mr. Richardson withdrew from the case. His main reasoning for doing so at this time is that he and his clients did not really see eye to eye on how the case was being run.
“ Since the case is being funded using public funds, I needed to feel comfortable that the challenge was being shaped, guided and argued in a way that would make the best use of those funds on behalf of everybody. I was not confident that that was really happening,” he said.
Mr. Richardson would like to set the record straight that he received no negative pushback from the government whatsoever while he was working on the case.
“ In any discussions that I’ve had with government people about the case, all of them have reacted quite democratically,” he said. “ Some have even agreed that it is something that needs to be talked about.”
He finds it unusual that the government had decided to prosecute persons who allegedly breached COVID-19 curfew violations, but have not really prosecuted travellers who have left their place of residence while they were supposed to be quarantining.
“ I cannot explain why the government has not prosecuted those people,” he said. “ Some people had stopped taking mobile quarantines seriously when they saw that it was not really being enforced . . . if people want the law to work, it has to go both ways.”
Photo courtesy of RG
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