Aviation tycoon worth £200m loses High Court bid to get Government’s ‘sweeping’ lockdown rules overturned after crowdfunding more than £200,000 to fight the case

  • Simon Dolan, who owns Jota Aviation, had launched High Court bid against rules
  • He said the ‘disproportionate’ rules were costing the economy £2.5billion a day
  • Government opposed the claim and said case was not open to legal challenge
  • High Court judge Mr Justice Lewis today refused permission for a full hearing 

An aviation tycoon has today lost his High Court bid to overturn the government’s ‘sweeping’ coronavirus lockdown measures after his legal challenge was thrown out by a judge.   

Multimillionaire Simon Dolan raised more than £200,000 through crowdfunding in order to launch the claim against Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over the regulations – imposed in March following the outbreak of Covid-19.

Mr Dolan, who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth £200million, claimed the rules are costing the economy £2.5billion each day and were beyond the Government’s powers. 

The tycoon, who owns London-based charter airline Jota Aviation, claimed the measures were a ‘disproportionate breach of fundamental rights and freedoms’ protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Simon Dolan (pictured with his wife Sabrina), who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth £200 million, claimed the rules are costing the economy £2.5billion each day and were beyond the Government’s powers


Multimillionaire Simon Dolan raised more than £200,000 through crowdfunding in order to launch the claim against Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (left) over the regulations – imposed in March following the outbreak of Covid-19

In a ruling at the High Court (pictured) on Monday, Mr Justice Lewis refused permission for a full hearing of the challenge

He also challenged the decision to close schools across the country to most children, while asking for disclosure of minutes from all Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meetings since the beginning of the year.

Who is Simon Dolan? Monaco based aviation tycoon is worth £200m according to Sunday Times Rich List 

Simon Dolan is a businessman from Essex, where he was born in 1969. From the age of 13, he would sell scratch cards at school, a sign of his entrepreneurial flair.    

Simon Dolan with his wife Sabrina and their children Enzo and Bowie at their family home near Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, in 2011

The tycoon left school at 16 and started doing people’s accounts after putting an advert in a local paper.

He founded SJD Accountancy, which was one of the first accounting firms to offer a money back guarantee. He sold the firm in 2014.

In 2010, Dolan invested in new start-up companies on Twitter, initially offering a £5 million investment scheme for successful business pitches. He was then known as ‘Twitter Dragon’. 

Aside from accountancy, he has invested in PHA Group Ltd, Oneserve, Jota Aviation, BajaBoard, Coast Autonomous and Jota Sport.

In 2010, Dolan and his racing team were stars of the documentary ‘Journey to Le Mans’. 

Mr Dolan is based in Monaco with his wife Sabrina and sons Enzo and Bowie. 

The Government opposed the claim and argued that Mr Dolan’s case was not open to legal challenge.

In a ruling at the High Court on Monday, Mr Justice Lewis refused permission for a full hearing of the challenge.

In his judgment, he said that in the ‘possibly unique’ circumstances of the global pandemic it would be ‘impossible’ for the court to find the measures ‘disproportionate’. 

The ruling comes after lawyers representing Mr Dolan, who was pursuing the case with others, argued that, while measures introduced in March to combat the virus are being eased ‘to some extent’, they are still ‘unlawful and disproportionate’.

Mr Dolan’s barrister, Philip Havers QC, told the hearing: ‘The claimants are seeking permission to challenge the most sweeping and far-reaching invasion of fundamental rights in England since World War Two, if not before, imposed in March, in response to the outbreak of coronavirus.’  

 Mr Havers argued that the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 are ‘still unlawful and disproportionate’ and ‘still far from being the least restrictive steps available to the Government’.

In court papers, Government lawyers argued that lockdown measures have been taken to protect the public and save lives, and that the situation has changed since Mr Dolan’s claim was first issued.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Lewis noted that the rules in force as of the day of the hearing – July 2 – ‘did involve a restriction on the freedom of assembly and association’.

‘That freedom is an important one in a democratic society,’ he said.

But the senior judge added: ‘The context in which the restrictions were imposed, however, was of a global pandemic where a novel, highly infectious disease capable of causing death was spreading and was transmissible between humans. There was no known cure and no vaccine.

‘There was a legal duty to review the restrictions periodically and to end the restrictions if they were no longer necessary to achieve the aim of reducing the spread and the incidence of coronavirus.

‘The regulations would end after six months in any event.

‘In those, possibly unique, circumstances, there is no realistic prospect that a court would find that regulations adopted to reduce the opportunity for transmission by limiting contact between individuals was disproportionate.’ 

The tycoon, pictured at his Buckinhamshire home with wife Sabrina in 2011, claims regulations are costing £2.5bn a day

Simon Dolan owns aircraft charter business Jota Aviation, which is based at Southend Airport

Mr Justice Lewis left open the issue of religious worship, saying it ‘may have become academic’ due to new changes to the regulations.

But he said that it ‘would not be right’ to reach a conclusion on the issue without giving both parties the opportunity to make further submissions.

Mr Dolan, who was described in the court papers as ‘an entrepreneur who fully or partially owns a number of UK businesses which combined employ a total of around 600 people’, had previously raised more than £204,000 through crowdfunding from some 6,600 pledges for the case.

In the court papers, Mr Dolan, who is based in Monaco with his wife Sabrina and sons Enzo and Bowie, claimed that only 253 people under the age of 60 with no pre-existing health conditions had died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

He said his firm had made ‘numerous flights to transport vital PPE equipment for NHS healthcare professionals and to repatriate British people stranded abroad, as well as flying daily for the Italian Post Office to help keep their goods moving’.

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