28 August 2020

Registration opens for first three weeks of hearings


Inquiry provides update on witnesses for later hearing sessions

The Inquiry is today opening registration for the first three weeks of hearings this autumn.

The witnesses and presentations will relate to haemophilia centres, apart from the first witness who will be Lord David Owen on Tuesday 22 September.

These hearings are being held against the backdrop of the pandemic. In the June consultation on future hearings, a common theme among respondents was that the Inquiry should facilitate the participation of the public, media and legal representatives to the greatest extent possible consistent with safety.

The Inquiry team has carried out a thorough risk assessment and is confident that the risk of transmission of the coronavirus while attending a hearing is reduced, due to measures including reserved seating at 2m distance, the wearing of face coverings and thorough cleaning every evening. The full risk assessment is available here. The Inquiry will continue to provide psychological support, refreshments, and first aid at the hearings and will meet expenses incurred.

To facilitate the full participation of everyone watching proceedings remotely, there will be a live broadcast of the hearing sessions available for people who sign up to receive this closer to the time, in addition to the YouTube broadcast with a short time delay. The telephone support offered by the Inquiry’s British Red Cross team will operate throughout the hearings.

We are asking anyone who is considering whether to attend in person to think carefully about the risks and benefits before registering. Due to social distancing measures, the number of Inquiry participants, recognised legal representatives, and media who can attend will be significantly lower than in previous hearings. 

You can register to attend the first three weeks’ hearing sessions here. We are asking people to do this by Friday 4 September where possible so that we can confirm seats.

The detailed timetable for subsequent weeks is not available yet because obtaining finalised witness statements has been made more complex a process than it would otherwise have been due to the pandemic.

However, we have updated the indicative timetable to give you the best idea we can of some of the witnesses and presentations we hope to hear, and when. You can read it here. We will provide further updates on our website as soon as more information is available.

As soon as witness statements are available in their final form, they will be disclosed to core participants to enable them and their legal representatives to prepare for the hearings. As has been the case with previous witnesses, their statements will be published on the website when each gives evidence, so that those who are not core participants may read them.

Chair of the Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, said:

“Covid-19 has cast its shadow over almost everything for the past six months. It threatened to delay the progress of the Inquiry. I was determined the Inquiry should press on, working every bit as hard, and should lose as little time as possible. But it was important to take your views about the hearings into account. So the Inquiry consulted you on how best to proceed. You not only agreed with this approach, but added some useful suggestions. Thank you.

These hearings will undoubtedly feel different. Many of you will prefer to participate online. Those of you who in normal times would have wanted to be in the hearing room may hesitate or feel unable to come. Whatever you choose, I hope you will continue to feel involved.      

The virus makes it more difficult to plan with certainty. Though we hope to publish more detail about the hearings soon, it is to be expected that the pandemic will mean changes at short notice.

Everyone involved - Inquiry participants, witnesses, and legal representatives - has been understanding, and patient. More understanding and patience is likely to be needed: may I thank you for it, in anticipation. Together we shall continue to make progress.”