Our public inquiries team, led by Erin Shoesmith, encompasses not only experience in providing representation at inquiries, but also expertise that extends across the full range of the firm's practice areas.
The team includes members with in depth knowledge of health and safety, corporate crime, dispute resolution, reputation management and contentious insurance disputes. It amounts to a large resource pool situated across the UK, which can be quickly mobilised, and has the breadth of expertise to manage the demands of a public inquiry.
Our experience in public inquiries
We have experience of acting at major public inquiries in recent years, for both individuals and organisations across a broad range of topics.
- We currently act on behalf of a core participant at the Grenfell Tower inquiry;
- We currently represent three bereaved families at the Manchester Arena Bombing inquiry;
- We currently act on behalf of a Core Participant in the Scottish Hospitals Public Inquiry, set up to investigate the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus, Glasgow, and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, and Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Edinburgh;
- The firm recently assisted a leading care institution in Scotland to provide written evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry;
- Members of our team have also:
- worked on the Jersey Care Inquiry in relation to historical abuse of children in care;
- represented a core participant in the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry;
- acted as special advisor to a Parliamentary Inquiry into misconduct in the private investigations industry in the wake of the phone hacking scandal;
- advised an organisation which gave evidence to the independent investigation into the maternity and neonatal services of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust;
- advised Sir Christopher Kelly on his independent public review of the causes of the capital shortfall at Co-operative Bank plc; and
- prepared senior bank executive for appearances before the Treasury Select Committee.
What are public inquiries?
- Public inquiries are convened by the Government to investigate events which have or could cause public concern. They often take place where people have suffered or lost lives.
- The inquiry will look at:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- Who may be to blame?
- What can be done to prevent this happening again?
- The chairperson of the public inquiry may designate a person, a group, or an organisation who has a direct and significant involvement or interest in the subject of the inquiry as a core participant. The core participant will have rights to see evidence, attend hearings, make opening and closing submissions, and may be permitted to question witnesses.
- The gravity, scope and complexity of the subject matter usually means that public inquiries hear evidence over long periods of time.
- The output of a public inquiry will include lessons learnt and recommendations, a select committee may follow up to make sure the government acts on recommendations.
- Public inquiries are almost always high profile and heavily scrutinised by the media, they often create public debate or even make headline news in the press.
Different formats of public inquiries
Public inquiries can take a statutory or non-statutory form.
- are held under the Inquiries Act 2005;
- are convened by a government minister when particular events have caused, or are capable of causing, public concern, or there is public concern that particular events may have occurred;
- have broad powers to compel the production of documents by individuals and businesses and the provision of witness evidence; and
- include a presumption that hearings will take place in public.
Non-statutory inquiries have:
- greater flexibility as to procedure; and
- no legal powers for the production of evidence.
Support we can provide
It can be a daunting prospect to find that you or your business are involved in a public inquiry. We understand this and can guide you through the stages of a public inquiry.
We can advise or assist people and organisations about their involvement in a public inquiry. That includes public bodies, businesses and individuals, whether as a core participant or a witness.
We provide support on the broad issues arising from a public inquiry including upon:
- reputation management;
- funding to support participation;
- governance, establishment documentation, process, sequencing and stakeholder communications;
- documentation - capturing and reviewing large quantities of documentation on bespoke IT platforms;
- witnesses - meeting and preparing witness evidence whilst sensitively handling highly emotive issues;
- factual analysis and report drafting;
- support ahead of public hearings, parliamentary committee appearances and the provision of oral evidence; and
- litigation arising from an inquiry.
Our work and advice may attract legal professional privilege depending on our role.
We will work with you to understand your concerns and wider objectives and adopt an approach that focuses on these whilst seeking to protect your reputation. Our support may include pushing the inquiry to answer your questions or investigate particular issues.
Within our team we have lawyers who specialise in and have extensive experience of:
- Public inquiries
- Health & safety
- Global Investigations
- Corporate manslaughter
- PRA, FCA, PSR and FRC Regulatory investigations
- Disclosure and large scale document review exercises
- Civil and criminal litigation
- Reputation management
- Parliamentary inquiries into matters of public interest
- Witness preparation training - we have worked closely with clients on witness familiarisation training ready for significant public inquiries, High Court cases and international arbitrations.
Legal 500 UK Awards 2019
'Erin Shoesmith is a fantastic lawyer who is that great mix of technical and commercial. She is well supported by her team, who show real strength in depth.’
‘An informed, sleeves-rolled-up, can-do mentality that really engages with the client and the issues.’
‘The team is very switched on and client friendly.’
‘It is the inspiring leadership of Erin Shoesmith which gives this practice its unique stamp. Her relentless focus on the client’s best interests, coupled with her phenomenal work rate, gives this team its hallmark. The incredibly high standards to which she works gives the team its benchmark. The result is an exceptional team, which achieves exceptional results.’
‘The team is experienced and pragmatic. It understands business needs and is proactive in its advice. Where necessary it ensures that those from the business involved in any investigation are reassured and given confidence in the quality of support.’
‘The team are very experienced in health and safety matters. They attract some of the best quality work and provide a very high level of service to clients.’
‘The individuals in this team bring a clear sighted focus to the task in hand, coupled with unremitting application and energy. This and their genuine interest in client outcomes sets them apart.’