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The UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry What we know so far, and what it means for you

  • United Kingdom
  • Inquiries and investigations
  • Litigation and dispute management

05-04-2022

In this briefing note we look at what’s happened to date in the Covid-19 Public Inquiry and consider the practical implications for those likely to become involved.

On 10 March 2022 the Government published the draft Terms of Reference (“ToR”) for the UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry. Baroness Hallett, the Chair of the Inquiry, is conducting a four week public consultation on the draft ToR, which will close on 7 April.

The ToR will be the Inquiry’s mandate, defining the scope and breadth of the issues it will investigate. In a public letter, dated 11 March, Baroness Hallett confirmed that she is seeking the views of the public, bereaved families, professional bodies, and support groups on the draft ToR, and that to fully achieve this alongside the period of consultation, the Inquiry team will be visiting towns and cities across the four administrations to gather views on the draft ToR.

Until the ToR have been finalised, the Inquiry is unable to consider any evidence1. However, the Chair has committed to recommending any changes to the ToR as quickly as possible, so the Inquiry can begin its substantive work.

Following the public consultation and the exercise to collate views nationally, we anticipate that the final ToR should be published by Summer 2022. The Inquiry is likely to then make an opening statement before inviting applications for core participant status. Thereafter the process of gathering evidence will start in earnest given the Chair’s expressed hope to start public hearings in 2023. The timescales for complying with requests for evidence can be challenging, but preparatory work for responding to these can be started now by those likely to receive them.

On 21 March, the Inquiry has also published a determination by the Prime Minister which gives the Chair direction on awarding funding for legal representation at public expense to applicants. This, and the supporting cost protocol, make clear that although the financial means of individuals bereaved by Covid will not be considered, awards will generally not be made for legal expenses of substantial bodies, or of individuals who could reasonably expect to be met by such bodies, unless there are special circumstances which justify a call on public funds.

We have published a document, Preparing for a public inquiry – Practical steps that you can take now, which sets out practical steps an affected organisation or individual can take to prepare for a public inquiry, including how to approach the gathering of evidence and what to consider before applying for Core Participant status. If you are thinking about engaging with the Inquiry, or beginning to prepare for it, please feel free to get in touch for a discussion.


1.  s5(2) Inquiry Act 2005