Covid-19 claims and the public inquiry
Covid-19 Public Inquiry
An independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic will begin in the spring of 2022 – an inquiry which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said must examine the Government’s actions ‘as rigorously and as candidly as possible’ to ensure it learns ‘every lesson for the future.’
Coronavirus has sadly taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the UK as it spread rapidly across communities, within hospitals, care settings, prisons and detention centres.
There has been much debate around the failure to protect the public, and in particular front-line workers such as health workers and those in care homes, and whether more decisive action could have prevented the wide-scale loss of life.
The Covid-19 public inquiry is likely to 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 the Covid-19 public inquiry.
The impact of cancelled appointments, scans and treatments on the lives of non-Covid patients could also be considered, along with the issue of those that have suffered Long Covid.
Our expert Covid-19 public inquiry lawyers are here to help
We have set up a dedicated team of lawyers to handle all enquiries relating to Covid-19 and the public inquiry, with our work being 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.
Although it is still early days in assessing cases of compensation, our specialist team would like to hear from people who contracted Covid-19 by filling in our form below, for example those who worked in:
- Care and Residential Homes
- Closed communities including prisons, immigration detention centres and mental health institutions
- Oil and Gas Industries
- Other areas the Government recognised as ‘essential services’ and staff identified as ‘key workers’ or ‘front-line workers’
Our teams are assessing the situation constantly and we will ensure all who contact us are regularly updated as to their position in relation to potential representation at the public inquiry and their possible future claim for damages.
“We will have to plan wisely as to how best to progress these cases ahead of the public inquiry, so initially we will be going through a listening and data collection phase before strategic decisions are made on behalf of the group of people affected. However, we felt it was imperative that people know there is experienced and knowledgeable support available for them now,” said Vicky Richardson, Head of Civil Liberties at Hudgell Solicitors.
“Initially it will be a period of speaking to people who have filled in the client form about their cases – at no cost – and establishing how people were individually and collectively exposed to this virus and understanding the impact it has had on lives beyond the statistics we have all found horrifying.”
Complete our Covid-19 form
We have established a dedicated team of lawyers, led by Terry Wilcox, to field enquires related to possible claims or representation at the Covid-19 public inquiry. There is no cost to gaining initial advice so complete our form today and our team will be in touch.
Meet Terry Wilcox
Terry, who is leading our team of expert lawyers on Covid-19 matters, 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 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 the public inquiry.
Latest Covid-19 Public Inquiry news
Public inquiry will see Government’s handling of Covid-19 pandemic rightly placed under full scrutiny
Covid-19 Public Inquiry FAQs
Why has a Covid-19 public inquiry been set up?
A public inquiry provides the established process to fully examine how the Government responded to the threat of the virus coming to the UK, and then once it was here how it and others acted to protect the public.
The terms of such an inquiry, which will set out exactly what the process will examine and the facts it will seek to establish, will be much debated before finally set in stone.
However, they are almost certain to cover how prepared the UK 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 suffering than should have.
The Institute for Government, an independent think tank which aims to improve government effectiveness through research and analysis, has produced a 33-page report on the Covid-19 Public Inquiry titled ‘The case for an investigation of government actions during the Covid-19 pandemic’.
It said: “It is hard to overstate the scale of loss that this crisis has brought to the UK. More than 150,000 people have died, leaving millions of friends and family grieving their loss.
“The coronavirus crisis, if not Covid-19 itself, will have a long tail. Individuals and society will have to come to terms with all that has been lost. Individuals who held public office, who were responsible for decisions, need to be held accountable.
“The Government must learn how it can be more effective in a crisis, and some form of justice for the victims and their families is due. A public inquiry is the way to do this.”
What other areas could be scrutinised by the public inquiry?
Given this has been a worldwide pandemic, the response of the UK Government and its approach in comparison to other countries is perhaps one area that will be examined.
Due to the UK suffering a higher death total than other countries, this has certainly been an area which has been heavily focussed upon in the media, as comparisons have been made with other countries and their approaches to lockdowns and quarantines on foreign visitors.
Many have also called for an inquiry into why there is a higher death rate for people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Obvious areas such as the initial response to the Covid-19 virus, the strategy and guidance followed, the provision of testing and how quickly that was increased and where it was implemented, the timing of the lockdown and its subsequent relaxation, and the economic response by the Government are also likely to be covered.
Is it possible to launch a legal case now?
At this very early stage it would be difficult, but it is certainly not too early to seek some initial advice from experts in civil legal proceedings and solicitors who represent people relating to wide-reaching cases such as this, and who have experience of representing at public inquiries.
At Hudgell Solicitors, our civil liberties and public inquiry solicitors are already advising many people who have contacted us because they or their loved ones contracted coronavirus and they feel that was as a result of the Government or other organisations failing to properly protect them.
We are certainly interested to hear from people who feel they were let down in care or residential homes, working with hospitals, on oil rigs or if you are a relative of somebody who got the virus whist in prison.
Our legal team are following all developments related to Covid-19 investigations closely and we will be able to advise as the situation develops.
Who will be able to take part in the public inquiry?
In large scale inquiries, as one focussed on Covid-19 will be, the appointed chair (often a serving or retired judge) will designate ‘core participants’ and witnesses.
A witness simply provides evidence to the inquiry through statements, documents or being asked to give oral evidence during a public hearing.
Core participants have a larger role as they have rights to receive disclosure of documentation, be represented by lawyers and make legal submissions, suggest questions and receive advance notice of the inquiry’s report.
Our lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors have represented many core participants at public inquiries. They can be individuals, organisations or institutions that have specific interest in the work of the inquiry.
Core participants have or may have played a significant role in relation to the matters to which the inquiry relates, has a significant interest in an important aspect of the inquiry or may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the inquiry proceedings.
Crucially, a public inquiry has the legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence – including those who perhaps would not wish to have their actions examined and questioned in the glare of public scrutiny.
How long could the Covid-19 public inquiry take?
We have to be realistic and accept that a public inquiry is likely to take years to enable all Covid-19-related investigations to be completed.
However, at Hudgell Solicitors we believe this is a process which must be committed to and fully followed to ensure recommendations and changes are made as a result of its findings which can help ensure the country is best prepared as possible to cope with any future pandemic like this one which we have all collectively been through.
Will front-line workers who contracted Covid-19 be able to claim compensation?
Our view is most certainly yes, in some cases. The sad reality of this pandemic is that many people have died or suffered serious long-term health issues due to the work they were required to carry out during the outbreak.
Although it is still too early to know exactly how all cases will proceed and what the public inquiry’s findings will be, it would certainly seem that people who worked on the frontline of the Covid battle, and were taken seriously ill with Covid-19, may have a case for compensation where they were not supplied with appropriate PPE.
Similarly, relatives of frontline healthcare workers who died having contracted the virus whilst working in hospitals without adequate PPE could also claim for their loss.
There may also be potential claims for family members who contracted the virus and became seriously unwell due to living with a healthcare worker who became infected having worked in hospitals without PPE.