Section 21 notice issued to compel the release of documents for Inquiry to review
The Inquiry is committed to openness and transparency. Where decisions are made by it which determine disputed legal rights, they will be published.
The Inquiry has today published legal determinations by the Inquiry Chair addressed to the Haemophilia Society and their lawyers concerning the release of documents and files that may be of interest to the Inquiry and its search for the truth.
The Inquiry expects that anyone contacted with a request to provide paperwork, files or other materials that may be of interest do so in reasonable time. If not, they may be legally compelled to do so.
The Inquiry wrote to the Haemophilia Society’s legal representatives on 19 July 2018 under Rule 9 of the Inquiries Rules 2006 requesting documents - a routine and standard matter. The Inquiry has reiterated this request and extended the deadline by which the documents must be produced on more than one occasion.
As no documents had been forthcoming, on 11 December a legal notice (known as a “Section 21 notice”) was made by the Chair to compel the recipient to hand over the requested materials, and setting out the consequences of non-compliance.
This was twice challenged by the Haemophilia Society’s legal representatives. Having considered the grounds offered, first for non-compliance, then for an extended period of time within which to comply, the Chair of the Inquiry has rejected the challenges and given a final deadline for documents to be handed to the Inquiry.
Chair of the Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff said:
“Where the Inquiry is challenged on its requests for documents and evidence, as is allowed, it is vital determinations that it makes are made public. This is so its processes are open and transparent, that people can see reasons for those determinations and that trust is maintained that it is exercising its powers properly. This would quickly be lost if such decisions were made behind closed doors.
“The Haemophilia Society argued that its CEO did not have control over or possession of the documents so was unable to provide them. I have decided the quickest way of obtaining all the documents requested was to issue a fresh notice. The Society has been given additional time to comply and I have every expectation it will do so.”
Failure to do so by the deadline of 11 February may be determined to be a breach of the Inquiries Act.