Protestors clash with Met Police officers during an Anti-Vax rally at Trafalgar Square. Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images
A solicitor at the centre of a campaign to shut down the UK’s COVID vaccination programme has been trying to bully schools into cancelling immunisation sessions by falsely claiming there is an active police investigation into the jab.The legal threats to headteachers are an extension of the so-called “crime number” campaign by opponents of the COVID vaccine, who cite a supposed reference number to a police investigation into the vaccine as proof that the jab is illegal. The campaign persists despite having been repeatedly debunked by police, who say there is no such investigation.
Lois Bayliss, director of Sheffield law firm Broad Yorkshire Law, was one of four people who filed a complaint at London's Hammersmith police station in December claiming that the government's coronavirus vaccination programme was criminal in nature. Police issued the crime reference number (CRN) “6029679/21” in response – a standard move to acknowledge receipt of the group's complaint – but say they have not launched any criminal investigation into the allegations. Despite the clear police position, the complainants have promoted the existence of the CRN as proof that a sweeping police investigation is underway into the COVID vaccine programme. That in turn has inspired a wave of attempts by hardliners from the conspiracist anti-lockdown movement to try to forcibly shut down vaccination centres, citing the non-existent police investigation as justification. Now Bayliss is using the false "crime number" narrative as the basis of a threatening legal letter to UK head teachers, which is being circulated on Telegram groups associated with the so-called "freedom" movement – the anti-lockdown, anti-COVID-vaccine, corona conspiracy milieu that has emerged during the pandemic.
The letter, signed by Bayliss on the 3rd of February, and written on her firm’s company letterhead, is being circulated for parents to send with a cover letter to their children's head teachers, warning them to immediately cancel any scheduled COVID vaccination sessions at the school or face potential criminal liability.Among other things, the letter states that informed consent is “impossible to obtain” because the health workers performing the vaccinations aren’t informing students that the vaccine rollout is under police investigation.“Should you fail to cancel the immunisation session you will render yourself liable for any losses sustained as a result of the visit and liability could include criminal liability,” the letter reads.In an emailed statement to VICE World News, Bayliss confirmed that the letter was genuine and that she stood by its contents. She said she did not give permission for her response to be reported in greater detail.Both Bayliss and Philip Hyland – a fellow solicitor who was one of the group that laid the initial police complaint, and who has promoted the false narrative that a police investigation is underway – have been the subjects of complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority over the “crime number” misinformation.“We have received reports of potential misconduct, so are aware of this situation,” a spokesperson for the authority, the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales, told VICE World News. “We are gathering all relevant information before deciding on any next steps.”
Meanwhile, NAHT, the school leaders’ union, condemned the letter campaign.“Targeted letters of this kind are an unnecessary and unhelpful distraction from the crucial job of keeping schools open and running smoothly for students – something which has never been harder thanks to the continuing disruption caused by COVID,” the NAHT’s general secretary, Paul Whiteman, told VICE World News in a statement.“Misinformation in any form is clearly harmful and makes it harder for young people and families to arrive at the decision that is right for them.”The union said that many of its members had been targeted with similar letters, threatening potential legal action over COVID vaccinations, which are being offered in schools to children as young as 12. The rollout in schools has angered many in the COVID-conspiracy “freedom” movement, with some pulling their children out of school and mobilising to form breakaway “learning hubs” in response.Joe Ondrak, the head of investigation for Logically, a tech company that combats online disinformation, said that schools had been a continued focus for anti-COVID-vaccine activism, from anti-vax propaganda targeted at students to legal campaigns against head teachers.Bayliss and her firm, which specialises in personal injury and family law, have been closely associated with the “crime number” campaign ever since it became a crusade for users of Telegram groups associated with the so-called “freedom” movement.
A press release-style statement dated January the 7th, and circulated on Telegram, touted the complaint as having triggered the "world's largest-ever international criminal investigation," and instructed people with potential evidence of the vaccine’s harm to contact Bayliss via her work email address.
The campaign gained a major offline boost with a full-page advertisement in the Rotherham Advertiser last month, which featured the logos of the Metropolitan and South Yorkshire Police forces beneath the headline: “Criminal investigation.” The ad also called for potential evidence to be submitted to Bayliss via her email address.
In recent weeks, the "crime number" narrative has been further amplified through social media posts by public figures like football pundit Matt Le Tissier and Jennifer Arcuri, the alleged former lover of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, boosting the misinformation to an even wider audience.