The future public inquiry into COVID-19
Legal 500 UK, 2017
Our team is consistently recognised for its public inquiry expertise, with over twenty five years of experience representing individuals, public figures and organisations in all major inquiries.
A public inquiry is set up to address significant public concern about major events in order to learn the facts of what happened, as well as lessons for the future. They are high profile, emotionally charged and the focus of intense media scrutiny. Appearing before one can be a daunting experience, whether you are an individual, senior professional, public official, major corporation or public sector body.
You may be asked by the inquiry to provide evidence as a witness. You may also apply to be designated a core participant if you played a direct and significant role in the events under investigation, you have a significant interest in the events, or if you face potential criticism when the inquiry publishes its final report. Being a core participant may mean that you face greater scrutiny, but you will have the advantage of being able to access the inquiry’s evidence and engaging fully in the hearings.
We understand that you will have wider interests at stake, be they reputational, professional, commercial or financial, and we can carefully help you chart a course which focuses on those concerns, alongside the immediate demands of the inquiry.
We will work very closely with you to gain complete insight into your situation from the outset. The breadth of our expertise means that you can be confident that your interests are taken care of; from initial contact with the inquiry and assisting you prepare your evidence to ensuring you are ready to appear at a hearing, as well as taking care of your reputation management needs throughout.
Led by Adam Chapman, Stephen Parkinson, Emily Carter and Sophie Kemp, our expertise in public inquiries extends across the firm and includes members of our dispute resolution, clinical negligence, and criminal litigation teams, allowing us to resource a substantial and truly experienced public inquiry team.
Our public inquiry solicitors have acted, in particular representing core participants and key witnesses, in many of the major inquiries of our recent years. Currently, we are acting for clients in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the Undercover Policing Inquiry and The Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry (Northern Ireland).
A Government minister may establish a statutory public inquiry following events of public concern. A non-statutory inquiry may be established by any individual or organisation, but will not have the powers available to a statutory inquiry.
The actual circumstances leading to a public inquiry being established are varied, but often these will involve significant failures in systems and services which cannot or have not been reviewed or resolved through existing processes. Terms of reference will be drafted setting out the ambit of the Inquiry’s investigation. A Chair, and sometimes a panel, will be appointed, along with administrative and legal support.
A statutory public inquiry has a range of powers available to it, including compelling individuals or organisations to provide documents and other evidence (including in the form of a witness statement) to the inquiry, as well as attending the hearing to provide oral evidence. It is a criminal offence not to comply with a statutory notice from the Inquiry or to otherwise distort, supress, conceal, alter, destroy evidence, or otherwise prevent relevant evidence from being given.
A report will be published at the conclusion of a public inquiry setting out the summary of the Inquiry’s factual findings based on the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation. The published report will also include a set of recommendations. These have no binding force and the extent to which they will be subsequently implemented will depend on a number of factors. Interim report(s) may also be published at appropriate intervals.
If any individual or organisation is to be criticised in the inquiry proceedings or any report, they are usually informed prior to the criticism being made public. When drafting the report, individuals and organisations are given an opportunity to make representations concerning any proposed criticisms of them. An inquiry does not have powers to determine the civil or criminal liability of any individual or organisation.
The Chair of a statutory public inquiry must ensure that members of the public and the press can attend (or otherwise view) the hearings, and access documents and a record of oral evidence provided to the Inquiry. In practice, most public inquiries will have a comprehensive website upon which relevant documentary evidence will be published, along with links to live video footage of the oral evidence given during hearings. The final and interim reports will also be published.
In a statutory public inquiry, restrictions may be imposed upon attendance by the public to inquiry hearings or publication of documents or evidence in very narrow circumstances where publication may cause harm or damage.
Partner and Head of Department
extensive experience of high-profile public inquiries"
Legal 500 UK, 2019
experience, willingness to challenge and be challenged, understanding of legislation, regulations and drafting skills."
Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession, 2018
Sources praise the group's abilities in 'sensitive, high-profile, politically inflected work' and attest that 'what is really refreshing is their commitment to their clients and the care they take'..."
Chambers UK, A Clients Guide to the UK Legal Profession
A real diversity of work. They benefit from experience acting for individuals, companies and public bodies, which gives them a depth and gravitas that sets them apart. Also, they are very friendly and down to earth individuals."
Chambers UK, A Clients Guide to the UK Legal Profession, 2017
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