Friday, 29 July 2022

Covid 19 and other inquiries - a roundup

UK Covid 19 Inquiry

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry is now established and will be held under the Inquiries Act 2005 and Inquiry Rules 2006.  The Inquiry is chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a previous Vice President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division - (brief summary of her legal career).

Terms of Reference were finalised following a process involving public consultation. Some 20,000 responses were received - Terms of Reference Consultation . The final terms may be downloaded from UK Covid-19 Inquiry Terms of Reference - UK Covid-19 Inquiry (covid19.public-inquiry.uk)

As described in Opening Remarks from the Chair, the inquiry will take a "modular" approach to its work.  A written copy of the Opening Statement may be seen at - Baroness Hallett's Opening Statement - UK Covid-19 Inquiry (covid19.public-inquiry.uk).  

The first module will look at the resilience and preparedness of the UK for the coronavirus pandemic.

Given the wide

scope of the inquiry, reports will be issued at appropriate times to enable key lessons from the pandemic to be learned as quickly as possible.

In addition to Counsel to the Inquiry (Hugo Keith QC) an additional 11 Queen's Counsel and 50 junior counsel have been appointed. The appointees will assist with preparation and delivery of the inquiry's investigative work. This is a remarkably large legal team and, as far as I know, is significantly more than any previous public inquiry.

In response to the pandemic, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland each adopted their own approaches and legislation. 

A separate Inquiry has been established by the Scottish Government - COVID-19 Inquiry - gov.scot (www.gov.scot) and this has its own website - Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry (covid19inquiry.scot)

The Scottish Inquiry, chaired by Lady Poole, has its own terms of reference.  The UK wide inquiry will liaise with the Scottish inquiry with a view to avoiding or minimising duplication.

Update 3 October 2022Lady Poole to step down as COVID-19 inquiry chair | Law Society of Scotland (lawscot.org.uk)

It remains to be seen whether the devolved governments in Wales and Northern Ireland will also create inquiries.

Other processes:

The Inquiries Act 2005 section 2 prevents an inquiry from ruling on or determining any civil or criminal liability.  This has not prevented inquiries from being critical of decisions taken by individuals, public bodies or organisations.  It is here that the process referred to as "Maxwellisation" comes into play. This can be described as a procedural practice whereby a person who faces criticism in a public report is given an opportunity to respond to such criticism prior to publication of the report. See this 2016 analysis produced for the Treasury Committee - A Review of 'Maxwellisation' (parliament.uk).

The Iraq Inquiry Report (chaired by the late Sir John Chilcot) was delayed due to this process - Law and Lawyers: Iraq Inquiry Report (obiterj.blogspot.com)

To date there has been at least one judgment handed down by the High Court. It concerned the pandemic and care homes - Law and Lawyers: The Coronavirus pandemic and care homes ~ High Court (obiterj.blogspot.com)

Even as the UK inquiry gets underway, it is notable that a large number of inquiries have already been held by select committees of both Houses of Parliament to examine particular topics and many reports have been issued - see the list at Inquiries and reports - UK Parliament.

** Other Inquiries **

The following is brief "round up" of some other public inquiries.

Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse - website - was set up 7 July 2014 but reconstituted in February 2015 as a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Since 11 August 2016, the inquiry has been chaired by Professor Alexis Jay. 

The inquiry has issued several investigation reports as well as an Interim Report (dated April 2018).  The Inquiry website states 'although our programme of public hearings is now complete, work is ongoing and all information gathered with inform the Chair and Panel's recommendations in the Inquiry's Final Report.'

The Inquiry has published updates on its website - see News | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Undercover Policing - website - set up 12 March 2015 - first Chairman was Sir Christopher Pitchford who stepped down for health reasons and, in 2017, was replaced by Sir John Mitting. See the Inquiry's 10th Update Note (July 2021).

News - Undercover Policing Inquiry (ucpi.org.uk)

Where can I find the latest updates on the website? - Undercover Policing Inquiry (ucpi.org.uk)

Infected Blood - website -  set up 11 July 2017 - Chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff. 

News | Infected Blood Inquiry

29 July 2022 -Inquiry publishes interim report | Infected Blood Inquiry

Blood scandal victims need quick payouts - lawyer - BBC News

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/17/survivors-of-contaminated-blood-scandal-awarded-interim-payments

Grenfell Tower - website - set up 15 August 2017 - Chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick. The Inquiry published its Phase 1 Report in October 2019. 

News | Grenfell Tower Inquiry

As the Grenfell inquiry wraps up, what are the next steps? | Grenfell Tower inquiry | The Guardian

Manchester Arena  - website - set up 22 October 2019 - Chaired by Sir John Saunders.

In June 2021, the Inquiry published a report on Security for the Arena.

News – Manchester Arena Inquiry

Jermaine Baker website - set up 14 February 2020 - Chaired by Clement Goldstone QC.

The inquiry issued a final report on 5 July 2022 - About the Inquiry - Public Inquiry into the Death of Jermaine Baker (jermaine-baker.public-inquiry.uk)

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