Welcome to the Olliers Covid-19 Inquiry Hub
The Olliers Covid-19 Inquiry Hub has been created by the Olliers Public Inquiry and Inquest Team.
We have extensive experience in representing individuals in high profile inquiries and inquests.
Our team is available to provide advice and representation to individuals who may be core participants or witnesses to the Covid-19 Inquiry or who may have received Rule 9 or Rule 13 correspondence from the inquiry.
If you have been contacted by the Inquiry or you feel that you should be a core participant please contact our team.
Core participants and other witnesses
A core participant should seek legal representation prior to appearing before the Covid-19 Inquiry. The same may also apply to individual witnesses who may not have been designated as core participants. It is vital that representation is sought at the earliest opportunity.
Core participants to the inquiry, and other witnesses not designated as core participants, may be required to attend the inquiry either to give evidence or to produce documents (or other material). There may also be individuals with a particular interest in the proceedings or outcome of the inquiry. In certain circumstances they may be at risk of signifiant criticism by the inquiry. Anyone to whom this applies needs to consider immediate representation.
The key point of a public inquiry is to ensure transparency and public accountability. The Covid-19 Inquiry will receive unprecedented attention. In this respect Olliers is uniquely placed, not only can we provide strong legal reputation but we are also leaders in the field of reputation management.
History of the Covid-19 Inquiry
In March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic we saw a national lockdown. Within a relatively short space of time there were demands for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. It was not until June 2020 that the Terms of Reference for the Covid-19 Inquiry were agreed.
In our timeline (which is regularly updated) we chart the key events which have led to the final terms of reference and the commencement of work under the inquiry.
FAQ and Definitions
Core participant status must be approved by the chair to the inquiry. Core participants are parties involved in a public inquiry who may have played a direct or significant role in the subject of the inquiry. They can be individuals, government bodies (for example the police) or corporate bodies. For those who appear as core participants the appearance at the inquiry may be of very real importance and there may be much at stake for those compelled to appear.
Rule 9 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 require an inquiry to send a ‘written request for a written statement to any person from whom the panel proposes to take evidence’. The request may also cover production of documentation or some ‘other thing’ and may request the recipient to provide oral evidence. Anyone receiving a Rule 9 letter should seek immediate legal advice.
Under Rule 13 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 the Chair to an inquiry may send a warning letter to a person who may be criticised during the inquiry or in the report or interim report. Anyone receiving a Rule 13 letter should seek immediate legal advice.
Public Funding for legal representation before an inquiry can be made available to core participants and witnesses to the inquiry. An application for funding must be made to the inquiry and will be subject to specified criteria. See our article on funding for legal representation before the Covid Inquiry.
The Inquiry will examine, consider and report on preparations and the response to the Covid pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The aims of the Inquiry are to:
1) Examine the COVID-19 response and the impact of the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and produce a factual narrative account, including:
- a) The public health response across the UK, including:
- b) The response of the health and care sector across the UK, including:
- c) The economic response to the pandemic and its impact, including government interventions by way of:
2) Identify the lessons to be learned from the above, to inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.
Who is entitled to Public Funding for legal representation before the Covid Inquiry?
Legal Representation at Public Expense is governed by the Inquiry’s March 2022 Costs Protocol
Funding may be granted to either a ‘Core Participant’ in the Inquiry or an individual witness not so designated. Application must be made to the Solicitor to the Inquiry
Opening Statement and the Covid-19 Inquiry Modules
Module 1 is now open. This module will consider the extent to which the risk of a coronavirus pandemic was properly identified and planned for and whether the UK was ready for the pandemic. It will look at the UK’s preparedness including the system of risk management and pandemic readiness. It will also scrutinise government decision making in relation to planning and seek to identify lessons from earlier incidents, simulations and international comparisons.
The first preliminary hearing into this module will start in September and the full public hearings for Module 1 will commence in Spring of 2023. The application process for core participants to Module 1 commences immediately. The deadline for applications will be the 16th August 2022.
Module 2 will be split into parts. The first part will look at core political and administrative governance and decision making for the UK. Initially, it will look at the UK wide and English perspective and then look at the issues from the perspective of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Modules 2a, 2b and 2c).
The base for public hearings will be London but it will also spend time hearing evidence about the response and impact of the pandemic in each of the four nations.
Module 2 will be opened in late August, preliminary hearings will be in the autumn and public hearings will begin in the summer of 2023 in London.
Module 3 will examine the impact of Covid, governmental and societal responses on health care systems generally and on patients, hospital and other health care workers and staff. It will investigate health care systems and governments, hospitals, primary care, the impact on NHS backlogs and non Covid treatment, effects on health care provision and vaccination programmes together with long Covid diagnosis and support.
Baroness Hallett reiterated her promise from the Terms of Reference that inequalities will be at the forefront of the Inquiry’s investigations.
Funding available for core participants and witnesses
Legal representation at public expense is governed by the Inquiry’s March 2022 Costs Protocol. This protocol relates to either a ‘core participant’ in the inquiry or an individual witness not so designated.
A written application for funding in respect of core participants and witnesses must be made to the Chair to the Inquiry. A separate protocol will be published in relation to considering applications for core participant status.
A person is eligible can apply for funding if they are:
- attending a Public Hearing of the Inquiry either to give evidence or to produce any document or other thing; or
- they have such particular interest in the proceedings/outcome of the Inquiry which justifies an award.
The Chair will, when coming to a decision, take into account:
- the financial resources of the applicant financial resources and,
- whether making an award is in the public interest.
The Protocol expressly states that the Chair envisages that awards will be made only in cases where she decides that:
- the applicant: has a direct link to, and evidence to provide in respect of, the matters set out in the Inquiry’s terms of reference; and/or
- has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters set out in those terms of reference; and/or
- may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the Inquiry’s proceedings or in the report/interim report.
the applicant would be prejudiced in seeking representation if they were to be in any doubt about funds becoming available and there are no other means by which such representation can be funded;
it is fair, necessary, reasonable and proportionate to make an award.
Awards will generally not be made, in respect of the legal expenses of substantial bodies, or of individuals who could reasonably expect to be met by such bodies.
An award, it will normally be limited to the legal representative having a role in relation to some or all of the following matters:
- taking initial instructions;
- advising the client in relation to the making of a witness statement and/or otherwise providing evidence to the Inquiry, in accordance with any request made by the Inquiry under Rule 9 of the Rules;
- considering disclosure material and/or that contained in an Inquiry Bundle (or any limited Bundle in the case of an individual witness who is not a Core Participant);
- advising the client in relation to any warning letter issued by the Chair under rule 13 of the Rules;
- making an opening statement, where permitted
- representing the client during their oral evidence (and the evidence of others, if necessary);
- making an application to be permitted to examine any witness giving evidence
- making final submissions, where necessary.
Written applications for funding of legal expenses should be sent to the Solicitor to the Inquiry in writing for the Chair to determine. An application should set out
- reasons why legal representation is necessary;
- which Inquiry module(s) the application relates to, with reasons;
- the extent of the applicant’s financial resources and confirmation that there are no other means by which such representation can be funded
- the nature of the public interest that will be served by an award being made from public funds
- the nature and function of the legal representation for which the award is sought;
- size and composition of the legal team including the seniority and proposed hourly charging rates for all solicitors and paralegals to be engaged,
- where it is thought necessary to instruct counsel, the reasons for so doing,
- estimated duration of the recognised legal representation;
- the number of hours each week for which it is anticipated that the recognised legal representative’s team will be engaged on Inquiry work
- the number of hours each week for which it is anticipated that counsel will be engaged on Inquiry work;
- the amount of time that it is anticipated will be spent in conference at the end of each day of hearings; and
- particulars of any other foreseeable expenses relating to legal representation.
Subject to the cap on the maximum number of hours that can be charged by an applicant’s recognised legal representative, a. the representative will agree with the Solicitor to the Inquiry in advance the hourly rates that are to apply to them and/or to any other qualified lawyer who, will be appointed to assist them. Where no agreement can be reached regarding hourly rates, the Chair will determine such rates as she considers appropriate upon receipt of representations in writing on behalf of the applicant
The maximum hourly rates for travel and waiting time by the members of an applicant’s legal team shall be half the agreed hourly rate
The Chair must direct that core participants shall be represented by a single recognised legal representative where
- their interests in the outcome of the Inquiry are similar;
- the facts that they are likely to rely on in the course of the Inquiry are similar;
- it is fair and proper for them to be jointly represented
Where the interests of any applicant may conflict with the interests of other parties separate legal representation may be granted
The Solicitor to the Inquiry will notify the applicant and, where applicable, their recognised legal representative, in writing of the Chair’s determination and, where an award is made, the terms of the award.
Billing Procedures Where the Chair has made an award, the applicant to whom that award has been made must submit bills relating to their legal expenses to the Solicitor to the Inquiry at monthly intervals.
Human Rights during COVID – Panel Provisions
A lot of the respondents to the Covid-19 Consultation referenced human rights issues during the pandemic. The Covid-19 Inquiry has adopted the Panel Principles.
A human rights based approach involves ensuing that principles of human rights are achieved and implemented. While human rights principles guide us on what should be done, adopting a human rights-based approach ensures that these principles are achieved.
Common principles to a human rights approach have been identified as the “PANEL” principles:
- Non-discrimination and equality
These principles are explained in more detail below;
Everyone has the right to participate in decisions affecting their human rights. Participation must be active, free and meaningful, and give attention to issues of accessibility, including access to information in a form and a language which can be understood.
Accountability requires effective monitoring of compliance with human rights standards as well as effective remedies for human rights breaches. For accountability to be effective, there must be appropriate laws, policies, institutions, administrative procedures and mechanisms of redress in order to secure human rights.
Non-discrimination and equality
A human rights based approach means that all forms of discrimination in the realisation of rights must be prohibited, prevented and eliminated. Priority should be given to people in the most marginalised or vulnerable situations who face the biggest barriers to realising their rights.
Everyone is entitled to claim and exercise their rights and freedoms. Individuals and communities need to be able to understand their rights, and to participate fully in the development of policy and practices which affect their lives.
A human rights based approach requires that the law recognises human rights and freedoms as legally enforceable entitlements, and the law itself is consistent with human rights principles.
UK Covid-19 Inquiry
Within the Consultation to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, the issue of the impact of the pandemic upon human rights and civil liberties was a topic heavily discussed.
In her response to the Consultation, Baroness Hallett acknowledged that respondents had ‘raised a wide range of issues that were perceived to impact on rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights’.
- the initial pandemic response and whether it was consistent with the Article 2 duty to take appropriate preventative measures to safeguard lives;
- mandating vaccinations within certain sectors, and the requirements for vaccine certification for international travel;
- the closure of places of worship set against the right to freedom of religion;
- the enforcement of Covid-19 related restrictions on the freedom of assembly;
- freedom of speech, the flagging and removal of content from social media, and the perceived suppression of scientists who challenged prevailing opinion of Covid-19 related restrictions.
Many respondents asked that the inquiry applies a specific human rights focus to its investigations. However, Baroness Hallett took the view that the issue of human rights will be fully explored ‘as they arise in our work’ and, given the level of concern she concluded that, ‘in carrying out our work, the inquiry will adopt the ‘PANEL’ principles of Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment and Legality, as used in human rights investigations, to guide the inquiry’s design’.
Specialist Public Inquiry and Inquest Lawyers (London & Manchester)
If you need advice or representation in relation to an inquiry or an inquest please contact our team of experts on 0161 834 1515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.