1 April 2019

Insight: How the hearings will work

More information about how the hearings for the Inquiry that begin in April will work

Public witness hearings for the Inquiry begin in April. To help those attending or interested in following proceedings we explain how the hearings will work below.

Hearings begin in London on 30 April and will continue across  the UK for a number of weeks. Details of dates for each venue can be found here.

Every day, hearing directly from people who were infected or affected, is of equal importance. Witnesses will be asked to take an oath, and will be questioned by Counsel to the Inquiry on Tuesday through Friday beginning at around 10am until around 3:30pm but witnesses will be given as long as needed for their evidence to be heard. There will be breaks during each day between witnesses and over lunch. It is expected that three witnesses will give evidence each day.

For those wishing to attend the hearings in person, registration has now opened for all sessions and can be found here. In the London venue, seating will be divided into three distinct areas: the public (especially people infected and/or affected, including friends and family of witnesses), legal and press. Priority for seating in the hearing chamber, aside from a seats reserved for supporting witnesses, will be given to those who have registered their desire to attend. A further room is also available with TV screens showing a live broadcast of proceedings and where conversation and phone calls are permitted. A similar approach will be taken at other venues.

All of the hearings are being filmed. This is being done by the Inquiry and the footage will be  provided to any media who request it. It will also be live-streamed to our YouTube page which can be found via our website during the hearings and afterwards. It is anticipated that media will be present during the hearings and may be conducting interviews with campaigners and witnesses inside or outside the buildings where hearings are taking place. There will be no filming of other people attending the hearings.

Witnesses are currently being selected and a final list is expected to be published in mid-April for London. Witnesses who request anonymity will have their picture pixelated before broadcast and they can have their voice distorted if required. A restriction will be put in place by the Chair to prevent anyone in the hearing room from publishing the name of witnesses who have requested anonymity.

We know that giving evidence or listening to witness testimony can be difficult. During the hearings there will on-site psychological support from the British Red Cross which has been working with the Inquiry since September last year. The confidential phone support line will continue throughout the hearings.

Chair of the Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, said:

“I am reading each and every written statement submitted to the Inquiry.  I am grateful to everyone who is giving a statement, speaking to the Inquiry’s intermediaries, and supporting family members and friends who are participating in the Inquiry.

"At the outset I placed people and their experiences at the heart of this Inquiry. The Inquiry has designed its hearing space so as to emphasise this: people with a particular interest in the inquiry, and witnesses, will be central, and lawyers to one side.  

“It is also honouring its undertaking to enable the public in different regions of the UK to participate by hearing directly in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds as well as in London from those infected by blood or blood products, and those who have been affected by this.  

"I have little doubt that their testimony will not only be poignant but also a powerful tool in helping to get to the truth of what happened.”

Further information is also available in our Statement of Approach: Information about the inquiry hearings