Public inquiries have received extensive press coverage over the past few years, most recently with the announcement of a public inquiry into the case of Lucy Letby, a neo-natal nurse convicted of murder and attempted murder of babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

As a result we’ve seen many asking what the aim of a public inquiry is and what upgrading the status of an inquiry to statutory means.

What is a Public Inquiry?

The aim of a public inquiry is to investigate a major incident or catastrophe. The inquiry will establish the facts in order to learn lessons from the events in the hope of preventing anything similar from happening in the future.

It is often established that these inquiries are in the public interest to restore public confidence and determine where the accountability lies.

What is a Statutory Public Inquiry?

A statutory public inquiry is afforded more powers. While non-statutory inquiries tend to conclude much quicker, as they don’t have to follow the Inquiries Act 2005 and Inquiry Rules 2006, a statutory inquiry has additional powers, including the power to compel witnesses to attend the hearings and/or give evidence to the inquiry under oath.

Other examples of recent statutory inquiries include:

  • The Manchester Arena bombing inquiry

  • The Grenfell Tower inquiry

  • The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

  • The UK COVID-19 inquiry

A Solicitor’s Role in a Public Inquiry

During the public inquiry process, core participants and witnesses are advised to seek legal representation to assist them with drafting statements and advising on their rights and options throughout.

Solicitors can also sometimes be called to speak at public inquiries. For example, Farleys’ Jonathan Bridge took part in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Contact a Public Inquiry Solicitor

Here at Farleys, we have a team of experienced inquest and public inquiry solicitors available to assist witnesses and core participants throughout the whole inquiry process. To discuss how we can help, please call 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry online and one of our team will get in touch with you.