Hearings are temporarily suspended due to Coronavirus.
In light of recent developments and the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening, the Inquiry has decided to temporarily suspend oral hearings. Accordingly, oral evidence will not continue as scheduled on Monday 11 January 2021.
This was a difficult decision, but the increase in transmissibility of the new variant of Coronavirus means that there is a significant increase in the risk of infection facing anyone who travels to and works at the Inquiry’s premises, notwithstanding the robustness of the arrangements in place. In the current circumstances it is unreasonable to ask witnesses and Inquiry team staff to travel into a particularly high-risk area to attend the Inquiry.
The Panel is keen to maintain the momentum of the Phase 2 hearings, and so has made the decision to switch to remote hearings as soon as possible. The Panel recognises that the subject of remote hearings was fully explored with core participants last spring during the first 2020 lockdown, and that it was not in favour of that option for the reasons it gave. However, the Panel has decided it is better to have remote hearings than no hearings at all while the current restrictions are in place, and wishes to emphasise that this is a temporary measure to be used only for as long as it is absolutely necessary.
The Inquiry is working with its supplier to make urgent preparations for remote hearings, including safely distributing equipment to witnesses and testing it to ensure that hearings proceed smoothly. The Inquiry hopes to start remote hearings as early as possible in February, and will write to core participants as soon as possible to confirm the resumption date and any other details, including how bereaved, survivor and resident core participants will be able to follow the proceedings remotely.