The former regional chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal has revealed he was forced to move house after his campaign for an investigation into alleged lockdown breaches by Dominic Cummings apparently prompted attacks on his property.
In June, a week after Afzal became the figurehead in a legal campaign to prosecute the prime minister’s former chief aide, a brick was thrown through the window of his family home in Manchester, he told the Guardian.
The following month his car was “slashed” outside the home after he announced he had urged the Metropolitan police and Crown Prosecution Service to investigate Cummings’ journeys to Durham and Barnard Castle.
Afzal said: “My family felt scared. I don’t blame Dominic Cummings. All I know is that in 25 years prosecuting some of the most organised criminals in the country, nobody has attacked my home. Yet suddenly someone starting attacking me and my family and we’ve had to move house.
“There’s always a personal cost to standing up [for] what’s right. In 2006 I was on an al-Qaida death list after I prosecuted Danish cartoon protesters, and in 2012 the far right demonstrated outside my house after the Rochdale grooming gang case. I accept that people will attack me personally, but I draw the line when my family is involved.”
Afzal said he would not be intimidated. “It has made me more committed to delivering justice, not just in the Cummings case, but for anybody for feels they are not being listened to. More than 3,000 people have crowdfunded the campaign to get Cummings prosecuted, and thousands more have messaged me to say ‘you’re doing this for me’. This is about restoring trust.”
Cummings, who resigned from the government in November after an internal power struggle, denies his movements during the first lockdown amounted to a breach of the Covid regulations.
In December, Durham police revealed it was assessing a 225-page dossier submitted by Afzal and his lawyers, alleging Cummings breached the lockdown rules multiple times and perverted the course of justice in his account of his movements.
Afzal says the documents gave Durham police a “second bite of the cherry” after the force decided to take no further action against Cummings following a three-day investigation in May. “I suspect they are now carrying out a much more thorough investigation than the very cursory one back in May. Durham police now has the opportunity to restore public confidence in them,” he said.
“I know for a fact that senior police officers feel it has set back public confidence in policing. And the evidence says that public compliance with the rules has diminished as a result of Cummings’ behaviour.”
Afzal, a former senior prosecutor for London and the chief prosecutor for north-west England until 2015, said: “If this was the prosecution service I was part of, I have no doubt they would say there is a case to answer. My concern is that we may not have as robust and courageous a prosecution service as we had in the past.”
If Durham police and the CPS decide not to prosecute, Afzal says he would have the financial backing to pursue the case himself. “I could prosecute the perverting the course of justice allegation as a private prosecution. I have been approached by philanthropists who like many are deeply concerned by what happened and are prepared to pay for any legal action that might follow, but it should be the state taking the responsibility.”
Afzal said he feels “angry and emboldened” by the events of 2020. His older brother Umar died of coronavirus in April while isolating at home in Birmingham. Weeks later, his mother died of a “broken heart”, he said. He added: “My brother would not be dead if the government hadn’t stopped community testing on 12 March.”
Afzal, who is currently suffering from Covid himself, also offered to meet Boris Johnson on behalf of the families bereaved by the virus. “I think he desperately needs to hear the voices of the bereaved. I would bring along others who have suffered similarly. The prime minister would benefit tremendously from hearing from us – he would be more decisive and listen to the scientists and medics more.”
If Johnson agreed to a meeting, Afzal says he would volunteer to act as a US-style special prosecutor to investigate the UK’s response to the Covid crisis. Such an investigation would help restore public confidence much quicker than a public inquiry, he said.
“It could be 10 years before we get the results of any public inquiry, but we need answers now. I would say to the prime minister: ‘Give me the legal powers and I will be your special prosecutor on the response to Covid. It’s important you do this, prime minister, because public confidence and trust is at an all-time low.’”
In February, a paperback version of Afzal’s book The Prosecutor will be published with a new chapter on the death of his brother and the Cummings affair.