Covid 19 - Public Inquiry

17 May 2021

The Government has announced that an independent public inquiry into the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is scheduled to start in Spring 2022.

While this announcement will be cautiously welcomed by many, the families of those who lost their lives to Covid, it remains to be seen what the scope of the inquiry will cover. The author also warns that it is likely that the start date will be delayed from the announced time period due to the practicalities and logistics of setting up an inquiry of this scale.

The next steps will be to appoint a Chair and agree the Terms of Reference, the document that will set out the precise scope and remit of the Inquiry.

A summary of the key stages of a public inquiry is set out below.

In practice most inquiries that fall under the Inquiries Act 2005 (which the Covid Inquiry most likely will) follow several key steps:

  • the announcement of the inquiry, its terms of reference and the appointment of a chair/panel
  • the opening of the inquiry
  • engaging an inquiry secretary, inquiry staff, a solicitor to the inquiry and counsel to the inquiry
  • obtaining and securing evidence
  • initial investigations, scoping exercises, and relevancy checks—this usually leads to the elaboration of a list of issues
  • disclosure, and the issuing of any disclosure protocols
  • witness statements
  • preliminary hearings
  • opening statements
  • oral evidence, in person or by video link
  • closing statements
  • the publication of the final inquiry report

In August 2020 Lennart Poulsen, together with Zacharias Miah, presented a webinar (Covid 19 Public Inquiry - What to expect and how to prepare). The slides are available here.

Lennart Poulsen is a barrister with significant senior-level experience in major public inquiries. He is currently acting as Junior Counsel for one of the Core Participants in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

If you believe you and/or your organisation may be involved or have any specific questions in respect of the Covid-19 public inquiry, or if you simply want more advice on public inquiries generally, please contact Lennart Poulsen at