Update from Collins Law

Collins Law has yesterday provided an update to Clients on the best way forward for the Inquiry and potential delays.

It would appear that the circumstances surrounding and the outcome of the recent conference call with the Rt Rev James Jones is causing concern and confusion.

The purpose of the conference call was simply to determine the extent to which he could assist in reaching an accommodation with the Cabinet Office. The views of those who took part in the call were virtually unanimous in that:

There should be a full Statutory Public Inquiry; and
The Department of Health should play no part

The Rt Rev James Jones indicated that he appreciated the importance of these views and he also said that he would be happy to hold a meeting in September with representatives of victims and campaign groups if it was likely to assist.

The short point is that following the call, the result of further discussion between victims, this firm and Campaign Groups listed below, was that a further meeting at this stage would not achieve anything and that the views of the community should be relayed to the Cabinet Office by the Rt Rev Jones immediately. His further involvement in this ongoing process was, however, welcomed.

Type of Public Inquiry

We have made your views quite clear but we can only say that there appears to be a determined agenda to continue to confuse matters by maintaining a reference to the possibility of a “Hillsborough Panel Inquiry”. Below is an extract from a note provided by the House of Commons Library to Diana Johnson MP with which we entirely agree:

“The Hillsborough Independent Panel was NOT a Public Inquiry, statutory or otherwise. It was appointed primarily to oversee the disclosure process, and to produce a report on how the disclosed information added to public understanding of the tragedy. The set up of the Hillsborough Independent Panel is not suitable for an inquiry that aims to be investigative and, importantly, that seeks to take witness statements and oral evidence. It is also not possible to have the powers of compulsion – of witnesses or documents – without taking on the additional requirements of the Inquiries Act 2005”

By way of further clarification a Statutory Public Inquiry can be undertaken by a panel or a single person. There is a presumption that it will sit in public not private. It may compel witnesses to attend or documents be produced, with criminal sanctions for non-compliance. It may direct that evidence is given on oath. It can impose a statutory duty to take steps to secure public access to documents

Involvement of the Department of Health

Again your position (and that of the c. 500 clients we represent) has been made very clear by this firm on a number of occasions. In addition, letters from various campaign groups, representing the views collectively of some 5,000 have been sent to the Department of Health and the Prime Minister. The Haemophilia Society and the APPG also concur with those views. Finally, some of you may also be aware that this position was echoed by the majority of MPs in the emergency debate in Parliament on 20 July.

There can be no doubt that the Department of Health should not be involved in setting the remit for an investigation into itself. The equivalent situation would be that of an accused criminal setting the procedure for his trial and choosing the Judge.

The way forward

It is important that the proposed Inquiry moves forward quickly and that the Chair is appointed now. It is already over 3 weeks since the Inquiry was announced and it is simply unreasonable to have to wait another 5 weeks for a meeting which will only confirm the views which have already been expressed. Once a Chair has been appointed to head up a Statutory Inquiry a meeting with the Bishop may well be helpful in order that he can impress upon central government your very real concerns. We are at a loss, however, to know what any meeting at this stage can achieve.

We have today written to The Prime Minister and cc’d the APPG group, Jeremy Hunt, Amber Rudd, the ethics team and Ann Ridley and the Rt Rev James Jones in the following terms (copy attached). This should hopefully clear up any misunderstanding there may be
— Collins Law Solicitors