Public inquiry procedure
Produced in partnership with Jim Duffy of 1COR

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Jim Duffy of 1COR provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Public inquiry procedure
  • Key stages of an inquiry
  • Chair of the inquiry
  • Inquiry panel members and assessors
  • Inquiry secretary and staff
  • Solicitor to the inquiry
  • Counsel to the inquiry
  • Core participants in the inquiry
  • Disclosure to the inquiry
  • Evidence in the inquiry
  • More...

Public inquiry procedure

The procedure by which a public inquiry is conducted will vary significantly from one inquiry to the next. Even for inquiries established under the Inquiries Act 2005 (IA 2005), the associated inquiry rules are not particularly prescriptive as to how they ought to be conducted.

Similarly, there is a dearth of official guidance. The Cabinet Office’s Inquiries Guidance: Guidance for Inquiry Chairs and Secretaries and Sponsor Departments was described by a witness giving evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Inquiries Act 2005 as ‘frankly…no use at all’.

This Practice Note focuses on statutory rather than non-statutory inquiries. For background reading, see Practice Note: Public inquiries.

Key stages of an inquiry

In practice most inquiries roughly follow a number of key steps:

  1. the announcement of the inquiry, its terms of reference and the appointment of a chair/panel

  2. the opening of the inquiry

  3. engaging an inquiry secretary, inquiry staff, a solicitor to the inquiry and counsel to the inquiry

  4. obtaining and securing evidence

  5. initial investigations, scoping exercises, and relevancy checks—this usually leads to the elaboration of a list of issues

  6. disclosure, and the issuing of any disclosure protocols

  7. witness statements

  8. preparation of procedural and costs protocols

  9. preliminary hearings

  10. opening statements

  11. oral evidence, in person or by video link

  12. closing statements

  13. report writing

  14. warning letters, and

  15. the publication of the inquiry report

This Practice Note will now

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