Public inquiries
Produced in partnership with Jim Duffy of 1 Crown Office Row
Public inquiries

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Jim Duffy of 1 Crown Office Row provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Public inquiries
  • Purpose and aims of public inquiries
  • Statutory inquiries
  • The previous regime
  • Key provisions of the Inquiries Act 2005
  • Judicial review
  • The role of the executive
  • Impact of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Non-statutory inquiries
  • Reform

Purpose and aims of public inquiries

Generally, a public inquiry is established as a means of reviewing in detail events giving rise to public concern. There are two types of public inquiry:

  1. statutory inquiries—set up under either the Inquiries Act 2005 (IA 2005) or other statutory powers for Parliamentary Commissioners, local authorities, regulatory bodies and others, and

  2. non-statutory inquiries—such as those made under the royal prerogative to establish a Royal Commission

IA 2005, s 44(4) expressly preserves 'any power of Her Majesty to establish a Royal Commission' as well as 'any power of a Minister…to cause an inquiry to be held otherwise than under this Act'.

Inquiry proceedings may be held in public or in private, according to the procedure applicable to that particular inquiry. Lord Justice Salmon, who chaired a Royal Commission on Tribunals of Inquiry in 1966, observed that secrecy 'increases the quantity of the evidence but debases its quality'.

This Practice Note deals mainly with statutory inquiries under IA 2005 before turning briefly to non-statutory inquiries.

Statutory inquiries

IA 2005 is a UK-wide statute. It entered into force on 7 June 2005, and, was enacted with the aim of consolidating the law relating to inquiries into a single statute.

IA 2005 should be read alongside the Inquiry Rules 2006, SI 2006/1838. These apply to UK public inquiries established

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