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Public Inquiry Representation

Public Inquiry Representation

Hudgell Solicitors is proud to have a team of Public Inquiry lawyers who offer legal representation to families and individuals. Public Inquiry hearings independently investigate some of the biggest tragedies, failings and miscarriages of justice in our country and are held to ensure full and impartial investigations are carried out when things have gone badly wrong.

Public Inquiry hearings have the legal power to compel witnesses to give evidence when they perhaps would not wish to have their actions examined and questioned in the glare of public scrutiny.

Recent examples of Public Inquiries our lawyers have represented at have included the investigations into the Manchester Arena Bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire, which each resulted in the major loss of life in 2017. Our lawyers have also represented core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

These often long-running hearings can generate significant media interest as they seek to establish what happened, why the event, incident or miscarriage of justice happened and who was to blame, whilst also focusing on ensuring lessons are learned for the future.

Our focus, as always, is on supporting people through each and every stage, and advising them on their next steps following an inquiry’s conclusion.

Recent and continuing Public Inquiries involving Hudgell Solicitors’ lawyers include;

Manchester Arena

The Manchester Arena Inquiry is currently running and was established to investigate how, and in what circumstances, 22 people came to lose their lives in the attack on the Manchester Arena on 22 May, 2017, with the scope to ‘make any such recommendations as may seem appropriate.’

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Split into two phases, this inquiry firstly sought to establish what took place at Grenfell Tower in London on the night of the fire, which caused the death of 72 people. This included the cause and origin of the fire, its subsequent development, the loss of life incurred and the response of emergency services.

Established in the wake of serious high profile instances of non-recent child sexual abuse, and because the Government had concerns that some organisations were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. Nine core participants instructed Senior Solicitor Malcolm Johnson.

Public Inquiry likely into Government’s Covid-19 response

It is widely expected that a Public Inquiry will eventually be held to independently examine how the UK Government responded to the threat and subsequent outbreak of coronavirus, and how it acted to protect the public.

Such an inquiry may look at how prepared the Government was to react to a pandemic like Coronavirus, how ready it was to be able to protect people, how quickly and appropriately it responded and whether any failings led to more people catching the virus and becoming seriously ill, or losing their lives.

Issues such as the much documented initial lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, and the protection of people in settings such as care homes and detention centres, would also be expected to be investigated as part of a Public Inquiry.

The impact of cancelled appointments, scans and treatments on the lives of non-Covid patients throughout 2020 could also be considered, given estimates that a lack of treatment could cost thousands of people their lives.

Our work is led by experienced solicitor Terry Wilcox, who represented at his first Public Inquiry more than 20 years ago in 1998 when instructed in the Ashworth Hospital investigation into whether the facility had become run by patients in a personality disorder unit, rather than staff.

Meet Terry Wilcox

Terry is highly-experienced in cases relating to major loss of life and long-running investigations, having represented a family in legal proceedings into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, which saw 96 football fans lose their lives and was subject to the longest running inquest hearing in English legal history. He is currently leading the representation of the families of two people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombing at Public Inquiry.

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Comments from Terry Wilcox

Public Inquiries play a hugely influential role in ensuring vital lessons are learned from some of the most devastating events and injustices we see in our country. They investigate the circumstances of disasters such as the Grenfell Tower and the Manchester Arena bombing whilst also examining how people have been let down through a lack of protection, such as inquiries into the historic abuse of children at organisations to the failings in health care, such as at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which found hundreds of hospital patients died needlessly as a result of substandard care and staff failings at two hospitals.

It is widely expected that there will eventually be a Public Inquiry into the Government’s response to Covid-19, given the huge numbers of deaths we have seen in the UK and the many concerns raised as to how it has been handled.

Our work in supporting former subpostmasters who were wrongfully convicted of crimes as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal is also a case we believe should be subject to a Public Inquiry, as we believe this is the only route which will ensure all those who played any part in the large scale injustice can be fully questioned under the rules of evidence and held to account for the appalling suffering caused to so many.

Of course, for many families affected by such events, the ability to see those they feel responsible fully questioned and held to account is of huge importance.

Equally, a Public Inquiry is a process which can help rebuild public confidence after a major incident or failing, and lead to important changes being made to better protect us all in future years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a Public Inquiry established and who runs it?
Public inquiries are set up by the Government, under the Inquiries Act 2005 and the Inquiry Rules 2006. They can be led by one person or a panel, who take evidence in the form of documents and oral testimony regarding the events in question. Inquiries are often chaired by a currently serving or retired judge. Crucially, once they have been established, they are independent of the Government department.
How is it established what a Public Inquiry will cover?
One of the first stages of a Public Inquiry is setting out the ‘Terms of Reference’ or ‘scope’ of the Inquiry. This is a stage where legal representatives are often consulted as to what the Inquiry should cover. It will clarify the matters to be examined and the facts which need to be established. It will also set out whether the inquiry is to make any recommendations. Once this is agreed an inquiry has no power to act outside of its terms of reference.
How long will a Public Inquiry last?
Given the large amounts of documentation and evidence usually needing to be considered, Public Inquiries are not speedy processes and there is no set time frame to which they are required to be completed. Most take around two years to report back with findings but can take much longer.
Can a Public Inquiry lead to criminal prosecutions?
A Public Inquiry can make findings about the credibility and actions of people involved. This can ultimately lead to further criminal or civil investigations for those involved, particularly if it concludes that there is liability, civil or otherwise.
Who takes part in a Public Inquiry?
A person who has played a role in the matters being investigated ,or has a ‘significant interest’ in them, can apply to be given ‘core participant’ status at the inquiry. Core participants – often those directly affected or families of loved ones - can be awarded funds to pay for legal representation, and their lawyers may be permitted to ask questions to other witnesses who give evidence.
How will I be represented at a Public Inquiry?
Our team at Hudgell Solicitors have represented at a number of Public Inquiries where public funding has been secured to enable victims and families to take part. We are committed ensuring our clients have the best legal representation and work to ensure funding is in place.
Can people refuse to take part?
No. The 2005 Act permits the compulsory provision of documents or the giving of oral evidence and to compel testimony and the release of other forms of evidence.

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