The Inquiry has published an update on its plans to return to limited attendance hearings.
Following the release of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the Inquiry has shared with core participants its high-level plan to resume hearings from its venue in 13 Bishop’s Bridge Road. This will be dependent on the government’s roadmap being implemented as anticipated. Enabling the bereaved, survivors and residents to attend hearings in person remains a priority and the Panel still intends to permit this as soon as it is safe to do so.
From 12 April, the government plans to ease some restrictions, though those who can will still be encouraged to work from home. The Inquiry therefore plans to resume limited attendance hearings on 19 April after the Easter break, provided the government’s roadmap goes ahead as planned. Attendance will need to be strictly limited at this stage, as it was before Christmas, to the Panel, Counsel to the Inquiry, the witness and their representatives and a small operational and support team.
From 17 May at the earliest, the government plans to allow mixing indoors between households. Provided this is implemented as planned, the Inquiry plans to allow a number of bereaved, survivors and residents to attend to watch the proceedings in person if they so choose. Careful consideration is being given to how this can be done safely and places allocated fairly, and the Inquiry will write to core participants with its plans in due course.
The government hopes to end legal limits on social contact from 21 June, though it has yet to publish guidance and has cautioned that some measures may need to remain in place. If workplaces and other indoor premises are advised to ensure at least 1-metre social distancing is maintained, it is unlikely the Inquiry will be able to significantly increase the number of attendees at hearings at that point. The Inquiry will carefully consider government guidance issued closer to that time.
Once the Inquiry is satisfied it is safe to do so, and subject to consultation with the Government Property Agency, hearings will once again be open fully to anyone wishing to attend.