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July 7th People's Independent Inquiry Forum > J7 Public Research, FOI requests & Official Reports > The Inquiries Act 2005

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Title: The Inquiries Act 2005
Description: Inquiry Enquiry Inquiries Enquiries


The Antagonist - June 23, 2006 05:50 PM (GMT)

Edit: See also the dedicated Patrick Finucane / Shoot to kill thread here.

Since the events of July 7th there have been many calls for the government to hold a Public Inquiry (or enquiry, if you prefer) into what happened that day. The government has staunchly refused at every opportunity but, in reality, a Public Inquiry would be highly unlikely to provide any further insight into events that day owing to a piece of legislation known as the Public Inquiries Act 2005, which renders all Public Inquiries subject to state approval.

The Inquiries Act 2005 was passed in response to the notion that a Public Inquiry be held to investigate the killing of Pat Finucane in 1989. In the aftermath of his killing, evidence emerged that police and military intelligence agents had colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries in his murder, as well as allegations of an official cover-up of such collusion.

If The State will go to such great lengths to prevent inquiry into one death 16 years ago, it may be sensible to consider to what lengths the state will go to prevent further inquiry into 56 deaths in London on July 7th. Coincidentally, the Inquiries Act 2005 was enacted on June 7th 2005.

The Bill received widespread opposition from all sides including the Finucane family, the Law Society of England and Wales, Amnesty International and several other legal, human and civil rights organisations. They issued the following press release:

QUOTE
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Public Statement

AI Index: EUR 45/008/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 69
22 March 2005

UK: The Inquiries Bill - the Wrong Answer
A Joint Statement by:

Amnesty International
British Irish rights watch
The Committee on the Administration of Justice
Human Rights First
The Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association
INQUEST
JUSTICE
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
The Law Society of England and Wales
Pat Finucane Centre
Scottish Human Rights Centre

22nd March 2005


The above-listed organisations jointly express our concern over some of the provisions of the Inquiries Bill introduced into Parliament on 24th November 2004. The Bill, being discussed this week by a Standing Committee of the House of Commons, would, if enacted, alter fundamentally the system for establishing and running inquiries into issues of great public importance in the UK, including allegations of serious human rights violations. Should it be passed into law, the effect of the Bill on individuals and cases that merit a public inquiry would be highly detrimental. In particular, in those cases where one or more person has died or been killed, the right of their surviving family members to know the truth about what happened and to an effective investigation could be violated by the operation of the Bill.

The fundamental problem contained in the Inquiries Bill is its shift in emphasis towards inquiries established and largely controlled by government Ministers. This shift is achieved by the repeal of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 and the terms of several of the Bill’s clauses. These clauses grant broad powers to the Minister establishing an inquiry on issues such as the setting of the terms of reference, restrictions on funding for an inquiry, suspension or termination of an inquiry, restrictions on public access to inquiry proceedings and to evidence submitted to an inquiry, and restrictions on public access to the final report of an inquiry. The Bill does not grant the independence to inquiry chairs and panels that has made their role so crucial in examining issues, particularly where public confidence has been undermined.

Several of us have already laid out our concerns about the Bill in earlier statements and briefings and we are pleased to note that some amendments to the Bill have already been adopted in the House of Lords. However, we continue to have serious concerns about the Bill in its current form and we urge all members of Parliament to take these concerns into account in their ongoing consideration of the Bill. We also wish to draw attention to the views expressed on this matter by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, by the Public Administration Select Committee, and by two notable jurists, namely Lord Saville of Newdigate and former Canadian Supreme Court justice Judge Peter Cory.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has concluded that several provisions of the Bill may not be compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in that they would inhibit an effective investigation into cases involving deaths. For example, the Committee has expressed concern that "the threat of withdrawal of funding by the Minister could unduly constrain the independence of an inquiry, and fail to satisfy the Article 2 requirement of an independent inquiry." The Committee has further stated that "the independence of a tribunal is secured both by the institutional and legal structure in which it operates, and by the restraint and impartiality exercised in practice by those involved. Even given the proper restraint by Ministers in the exercise of powers considered above, their availability in respect of an inquiry would risk affecting its independence, both actual and perceived." With particular regard to the power of Ministers to issue restriction notices, the Committee concluded that "the independence of an inquiry is put at risk by ministerial power to issue these restrictions, and ...this lack of independence may fail to satisfy the Article 2 obligation to investigate..." It also was concerned that the ministerial power to withhold publication of all or part of an inquiry report is "wide enough to compromise the independence of an inquiry."

The Public Administration Select Committee also criticised many facets of the Inquiries Bill, in its report following its inquiry into "Government by Inquiry". In particular, the Committee expressed concern about Ministers conducting inquiries into their own or their department’s actions.

Published correspondence between Lord Saville, who chairs the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and DCA Minister Baroness Ashton relating to the Bill is also of great importance, as it demonstrates the serious reservations of a senior judge and chair of a complex current inquiry. In particular, Lord Saville is concerned about the clause granting Ministers the power to issue notices restricting public access to inquiry proceedings and materials. In a letter of 26th January, Lord Saville states, "I take the view that this provision makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings, especially in cases where the conduct of the authorities may be in question." He further stated that neither he nor his fellow judges on the BSI would be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of that kind. Despite the addition in the House of Lords of a clause setting out a presumption of public access to inquiry proceedings, restriction notices issued by Ministers could still result in secret inquiries that would, as feared by Lord Saville, be "likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings, especially in cases where the conduct of the authorities may be in question."

On 15th March, 2005, Judge Peter Cory, a retired Canadian Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the British and Irish governments in 2002 to investigate allegations of state collusion in six controversial murder cases, wrote a letter expressing his own fears about the potential effects of the Inquiries Bill. He described the Bill as "unfortunate to say the least" and with specific reference to the case of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane stated, "It seems to me that the proposed new Act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible." Judge Cory noted that "the Minister, the actions of whose ministry was to be reviewed by the public inquiry would have the authority to thwart the efforts of the inquiry at every step" and he concluded that he "cannot contemplate any self respecting Canadian judge accepting an appointment to an inquiry constituted under the new proposed act".

We agree with all of these views and urge Parliament to take them very seriously. An inquiry held under the Bill as currently drafted would not be effective, independent, impartial or thorough, nor would the evidence presented to it be subject to sufficient public scrutiny. Such an inquiry would fall far short of the requirement of international human rights law that an effective remedy be provided to the victims of human rights violations. Moreover, the passage of the Inquiries Bill in its current form would do great harm to the tradition of public inquiries in the UK and would undermine the important principles of accountability and transparency. In order to command public confidence, it is absolutely necessary that an inquiries system permit close independent public scrutiny and provide for the active participation of the relevant victims. The Inquiries Bill does not do this.

Source: Amnesty International

One month previously, February 2005, Amnesty International had issued the following press release to mark the 16th anniversary of the murder of Pat Finucane:

QUOTE
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

AI Index: EUR 45/003/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 034

11 February 2005

UK: The government must withdraw the Inquiries Bill and act on its promise

On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the murder of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, Amnesty International is reiterating that only a public independent inquiry can deliver the truth about his death and ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

"Only a public inquiry established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 will be able to shed light on collusion by state agents with Loyalist paramilitaries; on reports that Patrick Finucane's death was the result of state policy; and on allegations that different government authorities played a part in the subsequent cover-up of collusion in his killing," Amnesty International said.

The UK government has reneged on its promise to act on the recommendation of Justice Cory, a former Canadian Supreme Court judge, that a public inquiry be held in the case of Patrick Finucane. Instead it has stated that Patrick Finucane's case would be the subject of an inquiry under the new Inquiries Bill now going through parliament. The government has also stated that the Bill aims to take account of "the requirements of national security".

Amnesty International believes that the UK government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of its agents' actions by introducing the new Inquiries Bill. The organization is concerned that the enactment of this Bill would mean the repeal of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.

"An inquiry under the Inquiries Bill would not be effective, independent, impartial or thorough. Nor would it provide for public scrutiny of all the relevant evidence," Amnesty International said.

"This Bill will affect not only Patrick Finucane's case, but also other major incidents which would warrant public scrutiny of the actions of the state. For example failures of public services, deaths in prisons, rail disasters, army deaths in disputed circumstances, etc."

Amnesty International fears that, if enacted, the Inquiries Bill would represent the death knell of any possibility of public scrutiny of and accountability for state abuses. In addition, any inquiry under this legislation would fall far short of the requirements in international human rights law and standards for effective remedies for victims of human rights violations and their families.

Amnesty International calls for the withdrawal of this draft legislation and for the government to engage in a serious consultation process about any future changes in the running of public inquiries. Public inquiries are one of the most critical mechanisms to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are upheld.

Background
Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries. In the aftermath of his killing, prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by police and military intelligence agents acting in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in the killing has emerged. In addition, allegations have emerged of a subsequent cover-up by different government agencies and authorities.

In May 2002, the UK and Irish governments appointed Justice Peter Cory to investigate a number of killings in which official collusion was alleged, including in the killing of Patrick Finucane.

In April 2004, the UK authorities published Justice Cory's reports but refused to announce a public inquiry into Patrick Finucane's case despite the unequivocal conclusion that in his case "only a public inquiry will suffice".

On 16 September 2004, Kenneth Barrett, a former loyalist paramilitary, was convicted of, and sentenced for, the murder of Patrick Finucane.

Instead of announcing a public judicial inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, the government has hastily put forward the Inquiries Bill to Parliament. There was no consultation prior to the publication of the Bill in the form of a white paper or concrete proposals.

Under the Inquiries Bill:




  • the inquiry and its terms of reference would be decided by the executive; no independent parliamentary scrutiny of these decisions would be allowed;



  • the chair of the inquiry would be appointed by the executive and the executive would have the discretion to sack any member of the inquiry;



  • the decision on whether the inquiry, or any individual hearings, would be held in public or private would be taken by the executive;



  • the decision to issue restrictive notices to block disclosure of evidence would be taken by the executive;



  • the final report of the inquiry would be published at the executive's discretion and crucial evidence could be omitted at the executive's discretion, "in the public interest".






Public Document
****************************************
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org

AI Index: EUR 45/003/2005        11 February 2005

Source: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur450032005

When the act was finally passed, Amnesty urged all judges, whether in the United Kingdom (UK) or in other jurisdictions, to decline appointments as chairs or panel members to any inquiry established under the recently enacted Inquiries Act 2005 with the following announcement:
QUOTE
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE


AI Index: EUR 45/010/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 099
20 April 2005

UK: Amnesty International urges judiciary not to partake in inquiry sham
Amnesty International calls on all judges, whether in the United Kingdom (UK) or in other jurisdictions, to decline appointments as chairs or panel members to any inquiry established under the recently enacted Inquiries Act 2005, including an inquiry into allegations of state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The organization is also urging the Act's repeal.

Amnesty International supports the call of Geraldine Finucane, Patrick Finucane's widow, to all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland not to serve on an inquiry into her husband's case held under the new legislation.

"By proposing to hold an inquiry into the Finucane case under the Inquiries Act 2005, the UK government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of the actions of its agents. Any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham," Amnesty International said.

Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries. In the aftermath of his killing, prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by police and military intelligence agents, acting in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in his murder, emerged. In addition, allegations have emerged of a subsequent cover-up by different government agencies and authorities.

In April 2004, an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments, concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in Patrick Finucane's case.

Instead, in the face of strong criticism and opposition, the UK executive railroaded the Inquiries Bill through Parliament and managed to have it passed as legislation as the Inquiries Act 2005 on 7 April 2005, the last possible day before Parliament was dissolved. Any inquiry, held under the new Act, would be controlled by the executive which, under it, is empowered to block public scrutiny of state actions. It will affect not only Patrick Finucane's case, but also other major incidents which would warrant public scrutiny of the actions of the state, such as failures of public services, deaths in prisons, rail disasters and army deaths in disputed circumstances.

"The Inquiries Act 2005 undermines the rule of law, the separation of powers and human rights protection. It cannot be the foundation for an effective, independent, impartial or thorough judicial inquiry in serious allegations of human rights violations. Nor would it provide for public scrutiny of all the relevant evidence," Amnesty International said.

"The Inquiries Act 2005 deals a fatal blow to any possibility of public scrutiny of and accountability for state abuses. Any inquiry under this legislation would automatically fall far short of the requirements in international human rights law and standards for effective remedies for victims of human rights violations and their families. One of the first tasks of the new UK Parliament should be to immediately repeal the Act."

Once again, Amnesty International calls on the UK authorities to immediately establish a truly independent judicial inquiry into collusion by state agents with Loyalist paramilitaries in Patrick Finucane's murder; into reports that his killing was the result of state policy; and into allegations that different government authorities played a part in the subsequent cover-up of collusion in his murder.

Background
In May 2002, the UK and Irish governments appointed Justice Peter Cory, formerly a Judge in the Canadian Supreme Court, to investigate a number of killings in which official collusion was alleged, including the killing of Patrick Finucane. In April 2004, the UK authorities published Justice Cory's reports but refused at that time to announce a public inquiry into Patrick Finucane's case.

Instead of announcing a public judicial inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, the government eventually announced that it would introduce new legislation under which an inquiry into the Finucane case would be established. There was no consultation prior to the publication of the Bill. The new Inquiries Act 2005 repeals the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.

Under the new Act:




  • the inquiry and its terms of reference would be decided by the executive; no independent parliamentary scrutiny of these decisions would be allowed;



  • each member of an inquiry panel, including the chair of the inquiry, would be appointed by the executive and the executive would have the discretion to dismiss any member of the inquiry;



  • the executive can impose restrictions on public access to the inquiry, including on whether the inquiry, or any individual hearings, would be held in public or private;



  • the executive can also impose restrictions on disclosure or publication of any evidence or documents given, produced or provided to an inquiry;



  • the final report of the inquiry would be published at the executive's discretion and crucial evidence could be omitted at the executive's discretion, "in the public interest".





Lord Saville of Newdigate, the chair of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry, pointed out that the Inquiries Act 2005 "makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry; and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings". Lord Saville also said: "As a Judge, I must tell you that I would not be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of this kind."

Judge Peter Cory with specific reference to the possibility of an inquiry into the Finucane case held under the Inquiries Act 2005 stated: "It seems to me that the proposed new Act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible."


Public Document
****************************************
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org

Source: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur450102005

Independent Public Inquiry, Indpendent Public Enquiry, Independent Inquiry or Independent Enquiry (i.e. not public, save for nonsense items as contained in the offiicial government narrative of July 7th) are all subject to the scope of a piece of legislation which respected organisations oppose, and actively encourage dissent against, in relation to investigating the horrific killing of one man.

If, as it would appear, the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005 are counter to the interests of truth and justice, and that they provide a flawed framework of Inquiry into the brutal murder of one man, in front of his family, sixteen years ago, should the British Public really accept such a widely condemned Act as the framework for further inquiry into the deaths of 56 people on July 7th?

QUOTE
"We need an official inquiry - now. Not a whitewash inquiry like Lord Hutton's. Or a punch-pulling inquiry like Lord Butler's. But an inquiry run by plain Mr or Mrs somebody." - Lt. Col. Crispin Black

The Antagonist - June 23, 2006 06:34 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

UK – The Finucane Case: Judiciary must not take part in inquiry sham


On 12 February 1989, Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead at his home in front of his wife and children in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Loyalist paramilitaries.

In the aftermath of his killing, evidence emerged that police and military intelligence agents had colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries in his murder, as well as allegations of an official cover-up of such collusion.

In April 2004 an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments, concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in the Finucane case.

Instead, the UK government has said it will set up an inquiry under the new Inquiries Act 2005.

Under the Act, any inquiry would be controlled by the executive which is empowered to block public scrutiny of state actions. The Act undermines the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and human rights protection. It cannot be the foundation for an effective, independent, impartial or thorough judicial inquiry into serious allegations of human rights violations.

Amnesty International is calling on:


  • the UK authorities to establish immediately a truly independent public inquiry into the Finucane case;

  • all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as on judges in other common law countries, not to serve on an inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s case if held under the Inquiries Act 2005.


Take action!

Please write to the three senior judges below to request that they notify all judges in England, Wales and Scotland about Amnesty International’s concerns regarding the holding of an inquiry into the Finucane case under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Please send appeals to:

Lord Bingham of Cornhill
The Senior Law Lord
Law Lords Corridor
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
United Kingdom
Salutation: Dear Lord Bingham

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Woolf
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London WC2A 2LL
United Kingdom
Salutation: Dear Lord Woolf

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Cullen of Whitekirk
Lord President
The Supreme Court
11 Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RQ
Scotland
United Kingdom
Salutation: Dear Lord Cullen

Please let us know if you have taken this action

You can copy and paste the sample letter below into an e-mail or a document to print out.
QUOTE
Dear Lord [add surname],

I am writing to express my concern over the UK government’s stated intention to hold an inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s case under the Inquiries Act 2005. 

As you may know, more than 16 years after the killing of Patrick Finucane -- an outspoken human rights lawyer -- by Loyalist paramilitaries with the alleged collusion of police and military agents, the UK government continues to refuse to hold a truly independent public inquiry into these allegations. The Inquiries Act 2005 empowers the UK authorities to block public scrutiny of state actions and undermines the independence of the judiciary. Any inquiry held under such legislation would fall far short of international human rights standards.  Amnesty International considers that any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham. 

Geraldine Finucane, Patrick Finucane’s widow, has recently called on all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland not to serve on an inquiry into her husband’s case held under this new legislation. 

In light of the above, I urge you to ensure that all members of the judiciary in your jurisdiction are made aware of these extremely serious concerns. 

Amnesty International is urging those members of the judiciary who may be approached by the UK authorities to sit on an inquiry into the Finucane case held under the Inquiries Act 2005 to decline to do so. 

I thank you in advance for your urgent attention to the concerns expressed in this letter.

Yours sincerely,

The Antagonist - November 21, 2006 12:42 AM (GMT)
Davide Simonetti, of Nether World infamy, has launched a petition on the Number 10 web site calling for a 7/7 Public Inquiry which, yet again, fails to even mention, much less tackle, the issue of the Inquiries Act 2005.

BTW, this is the same David Simonetti that promised to link to the Release The Evidence petition, back in August 2006, and still hasn't.

*yawn*
QUOTE
Petition for an inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 2005

Since I started this blog nearly a year ago, I have been campaigning for a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 last year. I don't know if we are any closer to having such an inquiry but it's been a while since I last posted anything about that atrocity.

Last week, Downing Street launched a new E-Petition service on its website. The service was put together by those clever people at MySociety who are also responsible for TheyWorkForYou, Write To Them and PledgeBank.

Whilst I share the cynicism expressed by Justin at Chicken Yoghurt, I decided it wouldn't hurt to create a petition and see what happens. So I have created a petition on the Downing Street site asking for a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7. Downing Street contacted me today and informed me that my petition has been approved and is now on-line.
The petition reads:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to hold a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 2005. More than a year after that terrible atrocity that killed at least 52 people and maimed many more, there still hasn't been a full public inquiry into that event. The "Narrative" and the ISC report we were given are insufficient. We've had public inquiries into far less serious events, why not this? We now know that the attacks did not come "out of the blue" as was asserted by the Home Secretary at the time.

If you feel, as I do, that we need a proper inquiry into the July 7 bombings, please sign the petition. Unfortunately this petition is only open to British citizens or residents. For those who aren't, there is still this petition which I also urge people to sign. Various polls have shown that most people think that there should be a public inquiry into last year's bombings. The refusal of the Government to hold one is adding to conspiracy theories and speculation that the Government has something to hide. Until we learn the lessons from July 7, we are even more likely to suffer a similar attack. Just because July 7 hasn't been in the news lately, it doesn't mean that efforts to get a public inquiry have ceased. Please help send a message to the Government that demands for an inquiry are not going away. You can do this by signing the petition, posting it on your blog if you have one and by writing to your MP.
Here is the petition

Thank you

The Antagonist - November 21, 2006 01:29 AM (GMT)
And, as if the point needed making that it's just Geraldine Finucane and family, J7 and last, but most definitely not least, the judiciary who are in favour of boycotting inquiries under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005, the MCB have a rather dubious approach to a judicial inquiry into the events of 7th July 2005:
QUOTE
T HE M U S L I M C O U N C I L O F B R I T A I N
Boardman House, 64 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 1NT
Tel 020 8432 0585 Fax 0208 432 0587 E-mail admin@mcb.org.uk
http://www.mcb.org.uk

BRIEFING FOR A JUDICIAL INQUIRY


The tragedy of 7 July 2005 and the events of 21 July 2005 have led many politicians to rush to judgments about the causes of the bombings in Britain. They suggest that the cause is “perversion of Islam” and describe the motivation for these acts of terror as “the evil ideology.” These suggestions are speculative and lack evidentiary foundation.

As a direct result of these suggestions, some politicians and opinion formers have started to question the basic precepts of our society. The value and need for Multiculturism is now up for debate as is the “Britishness of Muslims”.

The security of our society cannot and should not be compromised on any account. It is therefore of crucial importance that we find out, in an objective and transparent manner, the reasons that have led young Muslims to engage in acts of terror and murder against their own fellow citizens. We cannot address this shocking phenomenon unless we know the causes. Misdirected action has the potential to make matters far worse for the future. We fear that such misdirected action can be brought about by hasty or erroneous judgment on causes. We could as a consequence end up living in a fragmented society, deeply suspicious and resentful of each other.

The Muslim community is committed to play its full role in getting to the bottom of this horrendous problem but it cannot do so without the active support of the government. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens and in order to discharge that duty it is imperative for our government to do all it can to find the true reasons for such alienation and hostility to a section of the youth in a faith group as to blow themselves up to cause mayhem and terror.

It is in this context that the Muslim Council of Britain calls for a Statutory Inquiry in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005, which provides for inquires into events that ‘cause public concern’. We ask that an Inquiry panel is immediately established, which is chaired by an eminent Judge preferably a Law Lord who has a track record on issues of equality and cultural sensitivity.

We ask that Muslims of appropriate qualifications, skills and experience are included in the Inquiry panel and in the assessors selected. This is imperative as Statutory Inquiries have an inquisitorial mandate. Inquisitorial as opposed to adversarial process by its very nature demands greater public confidence and acceptability. The requisite public confidence and acceptability will not be forthcoming if the participation and active involvement of the Muslim community is not ensured at all stages of the Inquiry including the planning stage.

The Terms of Reference recommended for the Inquiry by the MCB are:

To enquire into the events of 7 and 21 July 2005 and to identify the causes and other associated factors including matters that particularly affect the Muslim Community in Britain and to make recommendations to facilitate for a cohesive, just and safe society for all.

T HE M U S L I M C O U N C I L O F B R I T A I N
Boardman House, 64 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 1NT
Tel 020 8432 0585 Fax 0208 432 0587 E-mail admin@mcb.org.uk
http://www.mcb.org.uk


Further details in the MCB briefing PDF.

Kier - November 21, 2006 11:23 AM (GMT)
And that's after the first paragraph:

QUOTE
They suggest that the cause is “perversion of Islam” and describe the motivation for these acts of terror as “the evil ideology.” These suggestions are speculative and lack evidentiary foundation.


Funnily enough I've just been raising awareness of the IA2005 over on another forum in response to another poster writing about a petition he's done, using the same facility as Davide Simonetti, asking for our government to get involved in pushing for a new investigation into 9/11! An attack happening a good deal more recently and on our own doorstep apparently doesn't mean very much to some 9/11 activists.

The Antagonist - November 21, 2006 12:23 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Kier @ Nov 21 2006, 11:23 AM)
An attack happening a good deal more recently and on our own doorstep apparently doesn't mean very much to some 9/11 activists.

And, there-in, perhaps, you have one of the main motivating reasons behind the great efforts put into bothering to have, and maintaining, a 9/11 Truth Movement in any country other than America.

The Antagonist - January 16, 2007 11:55 PM (GMT)
A summary of the Inquiries Act from British Irish Rights Watch:
QUOTE
SUMMARY AND CRITIQUE OF THE INQUIRIES ACT 2005

THE INQUIRIES ACT 2005


The full text of the Act can be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/20050012.htm

The Explanatory Notes can be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/en2005/2005en12.htm


1. summary of the main provisions of the act

reasons for setting up inquiries


Under s. 1 of the Act any government Minister can set up an inquiry if

(a) particular events have caused, or are capable of causing, public concern, or

(b) there is public concern that particular events may have occurred.

powers of inquiries

An inquiry panel does not have the power to determine any person’s civil or criminal liability (s. 2).

The chair has the power to compel witnesses and the production of documents and other evidence (s. 21).   

inquiry panels

An inquiry can be conducted by a single chair or a chair sitting with other panel members (s. 3).

Panel members are all appointed by the Minister.  If there are more than one panel members, then the person the Minister appoints to chair the inquiry must be consulted about the appointment of the other members. (s.  4)  The Minister may at any time appoint further panel members to fill a vacancy or increase the number of panel members (s. 7).  In appointing a member of the inquiry panel, the Minister must have regard—

(a) to the need to ensure that the inquiry panel (considered as a whole) has the necessary expertise to undertake the inquiry;

(b) in the case of an inquiry panel consisting of a chairman and one or more other members, to the need for balance (considered against the background of the terms of reference) in the composition of the panel. (s.8)

If a judge is appointed to an inquiry panel, the Minister must first consult the Lord Chief Justice (or his equivalent in other jurisdictions) (s. 10).  The Minister may also appoint assessors with the necessary expertise to assist the inquiry panel (s. 11).

The Minister must not appoint a person as a member of the inquiry panel if it appears to the Minister that the person has—

(a) a direct interest in the matters to which the inquiry relates, or

(b) a close association with an interested party,

unless, despite the person’s interest or association, his appointment could not reasonably be regarded as affecting the impartiality of the inquiry panel. (s. 9)

The Minister may at any time terminate the appointment of a member of an inquiry panel—

(a) on the ground that, by reason of physical or mental illness or for any other reason, the member is unable to carry out the duties of a member of the inquiry panel;

(b) on the ground that the member has failed to comply with any duty imposed on him by this Act;

© on the ground that the member has—

(i) a direct interest in the matters to which the inquiry relates, or

(ii) a close association with an interested party, such that his membership of the inquiry panel could reasonably be regarded as affecting its impartiality (unless these were known to the Minister at the time of the appointment);

(d) on the ground that the member has, since his appointment, been guilty of any misconduct that makes him unsuited to membership of the inquiry panel.

Before terminating an appointment the Minister must consult the chair, allow the person to make representations, and consult the other panel members if the person so requests.  (s. 12)

terms of reference

The Minister decides the terms of reference of an inquiry and may amend them at any time if s/he considers that the public interest so requires.  In setting or amending the terms of reference, the Minister must consult the chair, but is not obliged to consult any other person.  The terms of reference are defined as including:

(a) the matters to which the inquiry relates;

(b) any particular matters as to which the inquiry panel is to determine the facts;

© whether the inquiry panel is to make recommendations;

(d) any other matters relating to the scope of the inquiry that the Minister may specify.  (s. 5)

informing parliament

The Minister must as soon as is reasonably practicable make a written or oral statement the relevant Parliament or Assembly, stating

(a) who is to be, or has been, appointed as chairman of the inquiry;

(b) whether the Minister has appointed, or proposes to appoint, any other members to the inquiry panel, and if so how many;

© what are to be, or are, the inquiry’s terms of reference.

A statement must also be made if the terms of reference are amended. (s. 6)  Parliament does not have the power to debate this statement

The Minister sets the date when the inquiry will start, and the inquiry may not begin its deliberations before that date (s. 5).

suspension of an inquiry

The Minister may at any time, after consulting the chair, suspend an inquiry for such period as appears to him to be necessary to allow for—

(a) the completion of any other investigation relating to any of the matters to which the inquiry relates, or

(b) the determination of any civil or criminal proceedings (including proceedings before a disciplinary tribunal) arising out of any of those matters. (s.13)

The Minister must give reasons for suspending the inquiry and lay a copy of the notice, as soon as is reasonably practicable, before the relevant Parliament or Assembly. (s.13)

termination of an inquiry

The Minister may terminate an inquiry at any time.  If s/he does so before the inquiry has delivered its report, the Minister must consult the chair, set out the reasons, and notify Parliament.  (s.14)

conversion of inquiries


Any inquiry set up under other arrangements can be converted into an inquiry under the Inquiries Act provided the person who set up the original inquiry (who may, of course, be the same Minister) consents.  The Minister may also, with the consent of the chair, amend the inquiry’s original terms of reference.  S/he can also appoint different panel members.  (s.15)

practice and procedure

The procedure and conduct of an inquiry are to be decided by the chair, who has the power to hear evidence under oath.  The chair must act with fairness and with regard also to the need to avoid any unnecessary cost. (s. 17)  However, the Lord Chancellor (and other office-holders in other jurisdictions) has the power to make rules for practice and procedures during inquiries (s.41).  The Department of Constitutional Affairs has put out a document discussing potential rules and says it will carry out a consultation exercise in 2005.

public access

The chair must take such reasonable steps to enable members of the public and reporters to attend the inquiry or to see and hear a simultaneous transmission of proceedings at the inquiry, and to obtain or to view a record of evidence and documents given, produced or provided to the inquiry or inquiry panel (s. 18). However, the chair has the power to issue a restriction order limiting or preventing

(a) attendance at an inquiry, or at any particular part of an inquiry;

(b) disclosure or publication of any evidence or documents given, produced or provided to an inquiry. 

The Minister has the same powers, by issuing a restriction notice.  (s. 18) 

restriction orders and notices

Any restriction notice or order must be conducive to the inquiry fulfilling its terms of reference or be necessary in the public interest.  The person issuing the notice or order must have regard to:

(a) the extent to which any restriction on attendance, disclosure or publication might inhibit the allaying of public concern;

(b) any risk of harm or damage that could be avoided or reduced by any such restriction;  “Harm or damage” includes:

(i) death or injury;

(ii) damage to national security or international relations;

(iii) damage to the economic interests of the United Kingdom or of any part of the United Kingdom (unless the public interest in the information being revealed outweighs the public interest in avoiding a risk of damage to the economy –

s. 23);

(iv) damage caused by disclosure of commercially sensitive information.

© any conditions as to confidentiality subject to which a person acquired information that he is to give, or has given, to the inquiry;

(d) the extent to which not imposing any particular restriction would be

likely—

(i) to cause delay or to impair the efficiency or effectiveness of the inquiry, or

(ii) otherwise to result in additional cost (whether to public funds or to witnesses or others).  (s.18)

After the end of an inquiry the Minister may

(a) revoke a restriction order or restriction notice containing disclosure restrictions that are still in force, or

(b) vary it so as to remove or relax any of the restrictions. (s. 20)

Equally, restriction notices and orders may remain in force indefinitely.

public interest immunity

The rules on public interest immunity apply to inquiries in the same way as they do in the civil courts (s. 22).

reports

Inquiries must deliver a report to the Minister setting out the facts determined by the inquiry panel and their recommendations.  There is no provision for dissenting reports, but if the panel is not unanimous the report must reasonably reflect any disagreements.  (s. 23)  The chair is responsible for publishing the report, unless the Minister decides to take over that responsibility.  Reports should be published in full but the person responsible for publishing a report may withhold material

(a) as is required by any statutory provision, enforceable Community obligation or rule of law, or

(b) as the person considers to be necessary in the public interest.

The public interest is defined in the same way as it is for the purposes of restriction notices and orders. (s. 25)  Reports must be laid before Parliament (s. 26).  There is is no provision for debating such reports.

judicial review

Any judicial review of a decision made by a Minister in relation to an inquiry or by the inquiry itself must be lodged within 14 days, which is shorter than the usual time limit of 3 months.

withholding the costs of an inquiry

If a Minister thinks an inquiry has acted outside its terms of reference, s/he can refuse to pay for that aspect of the inquiry (s. 39).

limitations on inquiries in scotland and wales

Inquiries which are the responsibility of the Scottish Ministers may not determine any fact or make any recommendation that is not wholly or primarily concerned with a Scottish matter.  The Chair’s powers to compel witnesses and disclosure of documents apply only to Scottish matters.  (s. 28)  There are identical provisions in respect of an inquiry that is the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales (s. 29). 

limitations on inquiries in northern ireland

Similar provisions apply in Northern Ireland where a Northern Ireland Minister is responsible for the inquiry.  Additionally, a Northern Ireland Minister may not order an inquiry into any event occurring prior to 2nd December 1999, when devolution took place in Northern Ireland, or during any period when the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended.  Northern Ireland inquiries may only deal with matters that have been transferred to Northern Ireland under devolution; they cannot look into excepted matters such as national security.  (s. 30)

repeal of other legislation governing inquiries

The Inquiries Act repeals other legislation previously governing inquiries, most notably the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, which governed public inquiries.


2. CRITIQUE OF THE INQUIRIES ACT

          The Inquiries Act has brought about a fundamental shift in the manner in which the actions of government and public bodies can be subjected to scrutiny in the United Kingdom.  The powers of independent chairs to control inquiries has been usurped and those powers have been placed in the hands of government Ministers.  The Minister:

·        decides whether there should be an inquiry

·        sets its terms of reference

·        can amend its terms of reference

·        appoints its members

·        can restrict public access to inquiries

·        can prevent the publication of evidence placed before an inquiry

·        can prevent the publication of the inquiry’s report

·        can suspend or terminate an inquiry

·        can withhold the costs of any part of an inquiry which strays beyond the terms of reference set by the Minister.

Parliament’s role has been reduced to that of the passive recipient of information about inquiries, whereas under the 1921 Act reports of public inquiries were made to Parliament.  Now, not only is there no guarantee that any inquiry will be public, but inquiry reports will go to the Minister.

The Minister’s role is particularly troubling where the actions of that Minister or those of his or her department, or those of the government, are in question.  In effect, the state will be investigating itself.  In our view, the Inquiries Act is at odds with the United Nations’ Updated Set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity.

Where Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which protects the right to life) is engaged, the Inquiries Act is at variance with the United Nations’ Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.  Indeed, we doubt that the Inquiries Act can deliver an effective investigation in compliance with Article 2.  The Minister’s powers to interfere in every important aspect of an inquiry robs it of any independence.  Even if a Minister were to refrain from exercising those powers that are discretionary, s/he still has absolute power over whether there should be an inquiry at all and over its terms of reference.  There is no scope for victims to be involved in or even consulted about the process.

Lord Saville, who chaired one of the most complex public inquiries in UK legal history, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, has expressed grave reservations about the Act.  In a letter to Baroness Ashton at the Department of Constitutional Affairs, dated 26th January 2005, he voiced particular concern about restriction notices and orders, saying:

“I take the view that this provision makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings, especially in cases where the conduct of the authorities may be in question.” 

He added that such ministerial interference with a judge’s ability to act impartially and independently of government would be unjustifiable.  He further stated that neither he nor his fellow judges on the BSI would be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of that kind.

Lord Norton, who is Professor of Government at the University of Hull, said during parliamentary debate about the Inquiries Bill:

“Given the powers vested in a Minister, one has to wonder who would accept appointment to serve on an inquiry if independence were not guaranteed.”[1]



JUNE 2005


[1]          Hansard, House of Lords, 9 December 2004, col 1002

Source: British Irish Rights Watch

The Antagonist - April 14, 2007 12:41 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
http://www.legalweek.com/ViewItem.asp?id=25222

Why The Rush?

The Inquiries Act was rushed through Parliament before the
General Election was called this year. While many of its
provisions have been welcomed, questions remain over the
independence of some of the most sensitive inquiries, says
Kate Thirlwall

The Inquiries Act 2005 came into force on 7 June. It was
passed amid a storm of protest from human rights groups on
5 April, 2005 — the day before Parliament was dissolved in
advance of the last General Election. The Government
asserts that this is essentially consolidating and
codifying legislation. In that case, why the rush?
Administrative tidy-mindedness is rarely a priority so late
in the life of a Parliament.

Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, was murdered in 1989
by loyalist paramilitaries. Peter Cory, a retired judge of
the Canadian Supreme Court, recommended that a public
inquiry be held into his murder. The Government agreed. A
press release dated 23 September, 2004 stated: "In order
that the inquiry can take place speedily and effectively
and in a way that takes into account the public interest,
including the requirements of national security, it will be
necessary to hold the inquiry on the basis of new
legislation which will be introduced shortly."

The legislation in question was the Inquiries Act 2005. Mr
Finucane's widow has asked all judges in the UK to refuse
to chair the inquiry if it is to be held under the 2005
Act. To date no chairman has been announced.

Space does not allow for detailed analysis. What follows is
a bird's eye view of the main provisions with a closer look
at the controversial new restriction notices. The Act
provides a comprehensive framework for all inquiries set up
by ministers. This was long overdue. It replaces a
multitude of different statutes all allowing inquiries to
be held in different circumstances.

The Act

The minister decides whether an inquiry is to take place.
That was the position before, save in respect of inquiries
set up under the Tribunal of Inquiries Act 1921, which
required resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. While
the change might be perceived to downgrade public
inquiries, in practical terms it makes little difference.

The panel

The minister selects the panel. Assessors may also be
appointed and where the minister seeks to appoint a judge
he must consult with the higher judiciary. Sections eight
and nine of the Act require that panel members are suitable
to their task and that they are impartial. All of this
simply gives statutory effect to the previous situation.

Terms of reference

The minister sets out the terms of reference, but he is
required before setting out or amending them to consult the
chairman or proposed chairman. No change there. When
writing to the judiciary, Lord Woolf suggested that when
deciding whether to chair an inquiry under the Act, a judge
would look at all the circumstances of the inquiry. Of
particular importance would be the terms of reference.

Removal of panel members

Section 12 of the Act gives the minister powers to remove
panel members on certain grounds and there is a procedure
for such removal.

Suspension of the inquiry

Suspension of the inquiry is permitted in limited
circumstances, where another investigation is dealing with
the matters under consideration by the inquiry, when civil
or criminal proceedings are on foot. The chairman must be
consulted. The minister must issue a notice setting out the
basis for the suspension and specifying when it will come
to an end. Parliament must be informed. This codifies and
makes transparent what happened before.

Inquiry procedure

The chairman decides the procedure for the inquiry. He may
order the attendance of witnesses and the production of
documents. So far there are no detailed rules, although
that may change. The chairman now has an express
responsibility to avoid unnecessary costs.

The controversy

The Act states that proceedings will be held in public.
This was the position before the Act, for most cases

most of the time. It was, however, generally recognised
that public proceedings can intimidate witnesses and
inhibit frankness, contrary to the aims of any inquiry.
Thus, for example, in inquiries into child abuse
arrangements were made for victims to give evidence in
private. Where matters of security and safety have been
raised, security officers have given evidence anonymously
and from behind screens. Plainly, very different reasons
required these arrangements. Importantly, the decisions to
allow this reduction in public access were made by the
tribunal, not the minister.

The new Act changes that. It provides that attendance at an
inquiry and the public production of documents may be
restricted in two ways. Firstly, by the issuing of a
restriction notice by the minister, or secondly by the
making of a restriction order by the chairman.

The first of these is, in my view, objectionable. The
chairman is presiding over the inquiry. To be credible he
and the panel must be independent of government. It is for
the chairman, not the minister, to decide how and in what
circumstances evidence is received and whether it should be
disclosed.

Before deciding whether to issue the notice/make the order,
the minister or chairman must take into

account a number of matters including the risk of harm that
could be avoided by the restriction. Harm includes damage
to national security or international relations and damage
to the economic interests of the UK or part of the UK.

The chairman has no power to revoke a restriction order.
Presumably, he may ask the minister to vary it or to revoke
it. If the minister refuses then presumably the chairman
will seek to challenge the minister through the courts.
This is unattractive.

There is no apparent justification for giving the minister
this power. In the years before June 2005 in the course of
public inquiries, as in litigation, matters of Public
Interest Immunity (PII) arose. The relevant minister issued
a PII certificate in relation to the information. The
tribunal then considered the certificate together with the
information to which it attached and ruled as to whether
the information should be disclosed or not — see the
decisions in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, for example. There,
the panel ruled in favour of the Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland and material was either not disclosed or
disclosed in limited form. No-one appealed.

There has been no suggestion by government or by anyone
else that any tribunal has been unable prop-erly to deal
with these issues in the past. There is no basis for
removing from them such decisions now. It is an unfortunate
development.

It is right to say that the evidence will still go before
the inquiry, but it will not be in the public domain,
unless the notice is revoked. Why not trust the tribunal to
make decisions as to what should be in the public domain?

Finally, on this issue note the provisions of section 23 of
the Act. Applications may be made to the panel by the
Crown, the Bank of England and others that certain evidence
should not be in the public domain on the grounds that it
will damage the economy. The panel (not the Bank of
England) decides such applications, taking into account any
restriction notices.

Other matters

The protection in respect of defamation proceedings offered
by the Act should reassure nervous witnesses who are now in
the same position as witnesses in court proceedings.
Privilege is explicitly protected. It is helpful to have
set out exactly what happens with regard to the publishing
of the report and how an inquiry comes to an end. Current
inquiries may be converted into Inquiries Act inquiries -
this too could be controversial.

The Act is good in very many parts. But the ministerial
power over restriction notices risks undermining public
confidence in the independence of some our most sensitive
inquiries.

Kate Thirlwall QC is a member of Seven Bedford Row.
Author: Legal week
Source: Legal Week
Start Date: 04/08/2005
End Date: 11/08/2005


Source: Irish Aire News with thanks to Truthseeker for the find.

The Antagonist - June 6, 2007 12:09 AM (GMT)
Now, this is an absolute belter. To my mind, no family involved in any way with the events of 7/7 would ever support a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, a piece of legislation that was railroaded through parliament.

Furthermore, no reputable member of the judiciary would sit on any inquiry held under its terms. And still the cross media marketing brigade of one dances the merry dance.

Read, learn and spread the word at every available opportunity. Emphasis mine:
QUOTE
PUBLIC LAW & HUMAN RIGHTS

THE INQUIRIES ACT 2005

Jane O'Hare, Barrister
Director of Studies, Semple Piggot Rochez


In its press release of Thursday 7 April 2005 the Department for Constitutional Affairs announced that the Inquiries Bill had received the Royal Assent on that day. By way of an introductory note the Department informs us that:

" The Act provides a framework for statutory inquiries set up by Ministers into events causing public concern. It sets out the independence of those carrying out inquiries by providing that they must be impartial Inquiry chairmen will also have legal powers to seek out evidence that they need. The Act brings a new duty to publish inquiry reports and new requirements to publish and contain costs.

The Inquiries Act covers:

* setting up inquiries
* appointing panels to conduct inquiries
* procedures and powers
* submission and publication of reports. "

http://www.dca.gov.uk

In the Explanatory Notes accompanying the Act we are told that the Act

" .... gives effect to proposals contained in a Government consultation paper, dated 6 May 2004 entitled "Effective Inquiries", which itself arose out of a memorandum, submitted to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee as part of its "Government by Inquiry" investigation."

This consultation does not, however, appear to have paid much if indeed any heed to those members of the legal community and NGO's who have and continue to express their grave concerns over the Act's provisions.

In a Joint Statement issued on the 22nd March, during the week in which the Inquiries Bill was being discussed by a Standing Committee of the House of Commons, Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, The Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights First, The Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, INQUEST, JUSTICE, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada,The Law Society of England and Wales, the Pat Finucane Centre and the Scottish Human Rights Centre jointly expressed their concern stating that if the Bill were to be enacted it would:

" alter fundamentally the system for establishing and running inquiries into issues of great public importance in the UK, including allegations of serious human rights violations. Should it be passed into law, the effect of the Bill on individuals and cases that merit a public inquiry would be highly detrimental. In particular, in those cases where one or more persons has died or been killed, the right of their surviving family members to know the truth about what happened and to an effective investigation could be violated by the operation of the Bill.

The fundamental problem contained in the Inquiries Bill is its shift in emphasis towards inquiries established and largely controlled by government Ministers. This shift is achieved by the repeal of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 and the terms of several of the Bill’s clauses. These clauses grant broad powers to the Minister establishing an inquiry on issues such as the setting of the terms of reference, restrictions on funding for an inquiry, suspension or termination of an inquiry, restrictions on public access to inquiry proceedings and to evidence submitted to an inquiry, and restrictions on public access to the final report of an inquiry. The Bill does not grant the independence to inquiry chairs and panels that has made their role so crucial in examining issues, particularly where public confidence has been undermined. "

Despite these irrefutable concerns and objections the Bill has become law.


Amnesty International has now called on

" all judges to decline appointments as chairs or panel members to any inquiry established under the recently enacted Inquiries Act 2005, including an inquiry into allegations of state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The organisation is also urging the Act's repeal."

Amnesty International also "supports the call of Geraldine Finucane, Patrick Finucane's widow, to all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland not to serve on an inquiry into her husband's case held under the new legislation.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

" By holding an inquiry into the Finucane case under the Inquiries Act 2005, the UK government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of its agents.
" Any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham."
" Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries.

In the aftermath of his killing, prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by police and military intelligence agents acting in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in his murder emerged.

In addition, allegations have emerged of a subsequent cover-up by different government agencies and authorities.

In April 2004, an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in Patrick Finucane's case.

Instead, in the face of strong criticism and opposition, the UK executive railroaded the Inquiries Bill through Parliament and managed to have it passed as legislation as the Inquiries Act 2005 on 7 April 2005, the last possible day before Parliament was dissolved.

Any inquiry held under the new Act would be controlled by the executive.

The final report of any inquiry under the Act would be published at the executive's discretion and crucial evidence could be omitted at the executive's discretion, "in the public interest".

It will affect not only Patrick Finucane's case, but also other major incidents which would warrant public scrutiny of the actions of the state, such as failures of public services, deaths in prisons, rail disasters and army deaths in disputed circumstances."

Stephen Bowen continued :

" The Inquiries Act 2005 undermines the rule of law, the separation of powers and human rights protection.

" It cannot be the foundation for an effective, independent, impartial or thorough judicial inquiry into allegations of serious human rights violations. Nor would it provide for public scrutiny of all the relevant evidence.

" The Inquiries Act 2005 deals a fatal blow to the possibility of public scrutiny of state abuses. Any inquiry under this legislation would fall far short of the requirements of international human rights law.

" One of the first tasks of the new UK Parliament should be to immediately repeal the Act.

Amnesty International has called on the UK authorities to:

* immediately establish a truly independent judicial inquiry into collusion by state agents with Loyalist paramilitaries in Patrick Finucane's murder

* into reports that his killing was the result of state policy

* into allegations that different government authorities played a part in the subsequent cover-up of collusion in his murder"


On the afternoon of the 7th April the family of Patrick Finucane emailed Catherine Ashton, the Labour peer Baroness Ashton of Upholland and parliamentary under secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, who had sought to defend the Bill, in the following terms;

" ...we wish to take this opportunity to respond in light of our understanding that the Inquiries Bill has indeed passed the required legislative stages earlier today. Are you aware that those who actually witnessed the murder, the Finucane family, are now highly unlikely to take part in this inquiry?

Your government appears determined to cover up the murder of Pat Finucane in 1989. This is perhaps understandable given the involvement of the Force Research Unit of the British Army, the Security Service (MI5) and RUC Special Branch in the murder and subsequent cover-up.

You state in your letter that the Bill 'will help build public confidence in inquiries.' Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality this Bill will convince many people in Ireland, Britain and throughout the world that this government will go to any lengths to hide the truth about the operation of what was essentially a state sponsored death squad. None of this occurred on your watch. But the cover-up continues on your watch. PM Tony Blair MP made a clear and unambiguous commitment at the Weston Park talks. He lied.

When the time comes to write the history of this shameful episode your name will join the list of those who believed that defence of the realm was more important than publicly and independently inquiring into state run death squads.

General Pinochet would have been proud of this government."

Bridget - June 6, 2007 01:04 AM (GMT)
QUOTE
Taming of the shrewd inquirer

By Joshua Rozenburg
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 14/04/2005

Remember the fine old tradition of the British public inquiry? The fearless chairman, often a judge, who could never be sacked? The terms of reference, laid down in advance, that could never be altered? The publication of evidence, both oral and written, that the Government could never prevent?

All gone - thanks to the Inquiries Act 2005, passed a week ago while your back was turned. Forget about independent inquiries: ministers are now in control.
 
user posted image
Dame Janet Smith's Shipman Inquiry and Lord Hutton's report on the death of David Kelly are history

The new legislation replaces the jumble of formal and informal inquiries into events such as Bloody Sunday, the death of Dr David Kelly, the Harold Shipman serial killings, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the collapse of Equitable Life. So, what difference will it make in practice?

Let's start with ministers' new powers to sack the chairman and - after consulting him - any other members of an inquiry panel who are guilty of misconduct, partiality or failure to comply with their duties under the Act. Note that those duties include the "need to avoid unnecessary cost". So if a chairman ends up spending £154 million, as Lord Saville did on Bloody Sunday, beware.

But that's not all. If the Government does not like the way an inquiry is going, it can effectively sack the entire panel at a moment's notice. True, the minister must consult the chairman, give reasons and tell Parliament. But let's imagine that the Hutton inquiry had been on the point of blaming the Government for Dr Kelly's death. In future, a minister can simply wind up the inquiry before it reports.

Next: terms of reference. These are crucial, since inquiry members are not allowed to take evidence or reach conclusions on issues outside the boundaries set by ministers. But what if the Saville inquiry had decided to investigate the Bloody Sunday shootings in more detail than the Government had wanted? In future, the minister can simply tell the inquiry chairman that he is acting beyond his remit, and then refuse to pay him and his staff for anything the minister thinks they should not be doing. And a minister can now change an inquiry's terms of reference - after it has started work.

Given the costs run up by Lord Saville, you might believe that this is a reasonable way of keeping an inquiry under control. But it could be misused by a government trying to avoid disclosure of uncomfortable facts.

The new Act allows inquiries to be held into events of "public concern". If those concerns are to be allayed, it is essential that as much as possible of the inquiry should be held in public. Whatever criticisms may be made of Lord Hutton's report into the death of Dr Kelly, there is no doubt that his inquiry set new standards of openness in publishing government papers and transcripts of evidence on the internet - much to the embarrassment of some ministers.

That is why the Government's new power to restrict public access to hearings and evidence is so alarming. If a minister considers it to be in the public interest, he may simply restrict public attendance at the inquiry and disclosure of documents.

The Act makes it clear that public access may be restricted in order to reduce damage to national security, international relations, Britain's economic interests or commercially sensitive information. A minister can now even restrict public access to information if it would "result in additional cost". And these restrictions may continue in force indefinitely if the Government wishes.

The new Act, which was published yesterday by HM Stationery Office, is not yet in force. For the time being, we shall continue with the untidy but generally effective arrangements under which some inquiries are conducted under various statutory powers and others are conducted entirely informally, with no powers to order witnesses to appear.

Once the legislation is in force, however, the chairman of any inquiry established under the Act will have powers to order anyone to give evidence, produce documents or allow their property to be inspected. Unreasonably failing to give evidence, shredding your documents or not producing items under your control will be an offence punishable with nearly a year's imprisonment (though only six months in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

On the other hand, there may be circumstances in which you are more than willing to give evidence - while others want to shut you up.

If the Government, the Financial Services Authority or the Bank of England tells the inquiry panel that your information could damage the economy, you could be prevented from disclosing it.

Though the legislation is not retrospective, ministers are allowed to convert any existing or proposed public inquiry into an inquiry under the 2005 Act.

And that explains why this legislation has been rushed through with such indecent haste by Lord Falconer's Department for Constitutional Affairs.

As part of the Northern Ireland peace process, the Government has promised a public inquiry into the death of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries. It is alleged that members of the security forces, and those responsible for them, colluded in his killing.

Announcing last September that the inquiry would go ahead, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Paul Murphy, said that it had to be held under the new legislation "in order that the inquiry can take place speedily and in a way that takes into account the public interest, including the requirements of national security".

That means that much of the inquiry will take place in private - to the fury of Mr Finucane's family.

Clearly, lives should not be put at risk by forcing witnesses to give evidence in public. But a decision on anonymity should be one for the inquiry chairman, subject only to review by the courts. Ministers should not have the power to withhold evidence from the public at a supposedly public inquiry.

Telegraph      14/04/05

The Green Ribbon has a good analysis of calls for a 7/7 Inquiry under the act.

Bridget - June 6, 2007 01:13 AM (GMT)
QUOTE
Finucane widow urges judges to shun inquiry

Clare Dyer, legal editor
Thursday April 14, 2005
The Guardian

Geraldine Finucane, widow of the murdered Northern Ireland human rights solicitor Patrick Finucane, has written to all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland, asking them to refuse to sit on any inquiry into her husband's death under new legislation.

Lord Saville, who chaired the Bloody Sunday inquiry, has criticised the Inquiries Act 2005, which allows ministers to issue notices stopping certain evidence from being given in public and restricting publication in the public interest.

The act replaces the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 which gives chairmen a free hand.

Lord Saville has told Baroness Ashton, minister in the department of constitutional affairs, in a letter: "This provision makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry; and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings, especially in any case where the conduct of the authorities may be in question.

"As a judge, I must tell you that I would not be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of this kind."

The Canadian judge Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate allegations of collusion in Mr Finucane's murder. He concluded in 2003 that there was "strong evidence that collusive acts were committed" by the army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security service, and that a public inquiry was needed.

A British government official told the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva last week that a public inquiry would be held into Mr Finucane's murder, but that most witnesses would give evidence in private.

However, Judge Cory told the US Congressional hearings into human rights in Northern Ireland last month, before the act became law: "It seems to me that the proposed new act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible. The minister, the actions of whose ministry was to be reviewed by the public inquiry, would have the authority to thwart the efforts of the inquiry at every step.

"It really creates an intolerable Alice in Wonderland situation. There have been references in the press to an international judicial membership in the inquiry.

"If the new act were to be come law, I would advise all Canadian judges to decline an appointment in light of the impossible situation they would be facing. In fact, I cannot contemplate any self-respecting Canadian judge accepting an appointment to an inquiry constituted under the new proposed act," he said.

In her letter, Mrs Finucane cites the views of Lord Saville and Judge Cory and asks the judges: "In view of these considerations I write to request that, if approached to serve on an Inquiries Act Inquiry into my husband's murder, you, like Lord Saville and Judge Cory, refuse to accept such an appointment."

Lorna Davidson, of British Irish Rights Watch, said: "The minister can prevent particular witnesses' evidence from being given in public and any evidence could be expunged from the final report.

"The fear is that any witnesses who might say anything remotely damaging or controversial might be heard in private, so we'd never get to know what they actually said."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said: "The government is clear that the Inquiries Act provides the best way for a Finucane inquiry to proceed efficiently and effectively in a way which takes into account both the wider public interest and the public interest in national security.

"Absolutely nothing will be withheld from the person chairing the inquiry or the inquiry team."

QUOTE

Judges urged to boycott inquiries

Amnesty attacks new act for curbs on public scrutiny

Clare Dyer, legal editor
Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Amnesty International yesterday urged all judges to refuse to sit on any inquiry set up by the government under the Inquiries Act 2005, including that into alleged state collusion in the death of the murdered Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane.

The worldwide human rights organisation said it supported the call by Mr Finucane's widow, Geraldine, to all senior judges in England, Scotland and Wales not to serve on an inquiry into her husband's death held under the legislation. Amnesty also urged foreign judges to decline any invitation to sit on UK inquiries and called for the repeal of the act.

Rushed into law on April 7, the last possible day before parliament was dissolved, the act gives ministers powers to exclude the public from all or part of an inquiry, to control publication of the final report, to restrict the publication of documents, to insist on the omission of crucial evidence from the final report "in the public interest", and even to sack the chairman or a member of the inquiry panel.

The act abolishes the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, which guarantees independence by giving inquiry chairmen a free hand in all important decisions.

Lord Saville, the law lord who presided over the Bloody Sunday inquiry, has told the constitutional affairs minister, Lady Ashton, in a letter that he would refuse to take part in any inquiry allowing ministers to control public access.

He wrote that the act "makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry; and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings".

Justice Peter Cory, the former Canadian supreme court judge who looked into allegations of collusion by the police and army in the deaths of Mr Finucane and others, told a US congressional committee last month that he believed no Canadian judge would agree to serve on an inquiry under the act.

"It seems to me that the proposed new act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible," he said.

Many senior judges were unaware of the terms of the act until they received Mrs Finucane's letter last week. She said she had received "about two dozen" replies from judges, some just acknowledgments but some "very sympathetic".

Lord Woolf, the lord chief justice, has written to her on behalf of all the judges, saying that the decision to serve on an inquiry would be for the individual judge to make, taking account of all the circumstances.

Growing awareness among the judges of the way in which the act would tie their hands raises the possibility, embarrassing for the government, that they could boycott the Finucane inquiry unless given an undertaking that the powers allowing ministers to interfere would not be used.

The inquiry into the death of the Northern Ireland solicitor Rosemary Nelson, chaired by a retired high court judge, was set up before the act came into force and is not being conducted under it.

The government has already announced that the Finucane inquiry will be held under the act, that it will be a public inquiry, but that most of the evidence will be given in private.

"By proposing to hold an inquiry into the Finucane case under the Inquiries Act 2005, the UK government is trying to eliminate independent scrutiny of the actions of its agents," Amnesty said. "Any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham."

In April 2004 an independent report by Justice Cory, commissioned by the British and Irish governments, concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in Mr Finucane's case.

Amnesty said: "Any inquiry held under the new act would be controlled by the executive which, under it, is empowered to block public scrutiny of state actions.

"It will affect not only Patrick Finucane's case, but also other major incidents which would warrant public scrutiny of the actions of the state, such as failures of public services, deaths in prisons, rail disasters and army deaths in disputed circumstances."



Bridget - June 6, 2007 01:25 AM (GMT)
This Act was certainly intended to prevent scrutiny of state collusion in NI. I was just checking if any Inquries are being held under this Act and the Billy Wright Inquiry was converted in Nov 2005. I then came across this gem

QUOTE
Police destroyed papers on Billy Wright murder, inquiry told

· Lawyer says thousands of prison documents 'lost'
· Legal notices demand release of key information


Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
Thursday May 31, 2007
The Guardian

A public inquiry into the extent of state collusion with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland was told yesterday that secret documents from the prison, police and security services had been deliberately destroyed or lost.

On the opening day of full hearings into the murder of the loyalist terrorist leader Billy Wright, lawyers outlined their difficulties in obtaining key files from the British authorities.

The Guardian revealed last month that organisations such as MI5 and the Ministry of Defence were demanding the return of secret documents acquired by the Stevens inquiry into collusion in Northern Ireland. In some cases documents containing evidence of collusion were returned by the Stevens inquiry team under pressure from the authorities and shredded, sources told this newspaper. They said calls for documents to be returned were growing stronger in the run-up to the opening of the Wright inquiry.

The allegations were substantiated by Alan Kane, lawyer for the Wright family, who told the inquiry at Banbridge courthouse in County Down that key documents were not available.

"Thousands of prison documents and journals have been deliberately destroyed or disappeared," he said yesterday.

Wright, the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force and an opponent of the peace process, was fatally shot in an ambush inside the Maze prison in December 1997 by members of the republican paramilitary group the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

His father, David Wright, who attended the opening of the inquiry, has demanded to know how three INLA members were able to get to their target. They climbed through a hole in security fencing and clambered over a roof before opening fire.


An inquest into Wright's death found that no one had been staffing the observation tower overlooking the prison yard where the attack took place, and surveillance cameras were not working even though they had been reported as faulty. It was also claimed that prison authorities had been warned of an attack on Wright.

Derek Batchelor QC, senior counsel for the inquiry, also disclosed delays in obtaining material. He said the inquiry had experienced difficulties obtaining documents, primarily from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, despite issuing four formal legal notices requesting information stretching back to November 2005 .

Only this month, the inquiry had received a substantial volume of papers, Mr Batchelor revealed.

There were also gaps in the documentation supplied by prison authorities and the Security Service, he added.

The chairman of the tribunal, Lord MacLean, who will oversee proceedings which are expected to involve up to 180 witnesses, said relevant material had not always been supplied as quickly as possible, particularly by the PSNI.

"I said in December 2005 that the inquiry had exercised its powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 and served notices in accordance with section 21 of that act," he said. "That process has continued over the last 18 months and may not yet be over."

The Wright inquiry is the first of four crucial public inquiries which have emerged from the investigations by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan police commissioner, over the past 18 years. Evidence presented to the inquiries is expected to reveal the extent of security force collusion with loyalist and republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

Under the IA05 I somehow doubt it.

The Antagonist - August 9, 2007 11:07 AM (GMT)
The Inquiries Act 2005 is getting an airing in the cae of the death inside the Maze prison of Billy Wright. One to watch:
QUOTE
Wright case legal challenge refused
Posted by Contributor at 8/8/2007 5:12 PM and is filed under Loyalist,Politics,Ulster,news
08-08-2007

Irish News


A High Court judge has refused to grant leave for a legal challenge linked to the inquiry into the death of LVF leader Billy Wright.

The case was brought by six serving and former Prison Service employees who expressed fears they could end up in court as a result of the terms of reference of the inquiry.

The hearing was opened in front of Mr Justice Weatherup last week but yesterday (Monday) he refused to grant leave on the grounds the applicants failed to "establish an arguable case" that the inquiry would act in an improper manner.

LVF leader Billy Wright was murdered inside the Maze prison in December 1996. His father David has always maintained his INLA killers were assisted by the state.

The Wright inquiry, which is being conducted in Banbridge under the controversial Inquiries Act 2005, was opened earlier this year and is due to resume on September 10.

It is being held to try to determine whether any wrongful act was committed that facilitated the loyalist's death and, if so, whether the act was intentional or negligent.

The six applicants who sought a judicial review claimed the terms of reference under the Inquiries Act could enable the hearing to make a finding of criminal or civil liability – a move they fear could result in them being brought to court or be named as defendants in a civil case brought by the Wright family.

Mr Justice Weatherup said yesterday that correspondence from the Wright inquiry chairman stated the hearing had "no power" to determine civil or criminal liabilities, which he said "was a matter for the courts".

The High Court judge said inquiries such as the Wright case "are not courts" and "do not have legal effect" but are held "to restore public confidence".

"I am not satisfied the applicants established an arguable case that the inquiry has proposed to approach its task in an improper manner or in a manner incompatible with the 2005 Act," the judge said.

"Leave is refused."

The Antagonist - August 13, 2007 06:19 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
From The Times
August 1, 2007
When tribunal witness requests anonymity


House of Lords

Published August 1, 2007

In re Officer L and Others

Before Lord Hoffmann, Lord Woolf, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Mance

Speeches July 31, 2007 On an application by potential witnesses for anonymity at a public inquiry, the appropriate test was whether a preexisting risk of death to the witness would be materially increased if he were required to give evidence without anonymity.

The House of Lords so held allowing an appeal by the Robert Hamill Inquiry from the dismissal by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland (Sir Brian Kerr, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Campbell and Lord Justice Gir-van) ([2007] NICA 8) of its appeal from Mr Justice Morgan who, on November 3, 2006, had allowed applications by 11 retired or serving police officers for judicial review of the inquiry’s refusal on August 3, 2006 of their applications for anonymity.

Mr Ashley Underwood, QC and Miss Julie Anderson for the inquiry; Mr Frank Donoghue, QC and Mr Kevin O'Hare, both of the Northern Ireland Bar, for the officers; Mr Philip Sales, QC and Miss Joanne Clement for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, intervening; Mr Liam McCollum, QC and Ms Fiona Doherty, both of the Northern Ireland Bar, by written submissions, for Mrs Jessica Hamill.

LORD CARSWELL said that the inquiry had been set up by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under the Inquiries Act 2005 to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Hamill, who had died on May 8, 1997 from injuries received during an affray in Portadown, Co Armagh.

The incident had given rise to public concern and controversy, Mr Hamill’s family claiming that the attack had been sectarian and that police officers nearby had not attempted to stop the assault and one had obstructed subsequent investigation. No one had been convicted of Mr Hamill’s murder.

The inquiry proposed to call a number of police officers as witnesses, and some had applied to have their names withheld and to be screened from public view while giving evidence. With one exception, the applications had been refused.

The burden of the officers’ submissions was that by giving evidence without any protection by way of anonymity they would be exposed to an increased risk of terrorist attack.

They expressed a reasonable and genuine fear that they would be targeted and highlighted their concerns about the possibility of reprisals from a dissident terrorist group.

They contended: first, that to compel them to give evidence without anonymity would be a breach of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing protection of right to life, second, that it would be a breach of the common-law duty of fairness to the witnesses.

The Court of Appeal had confined its consideration to the inquiry’s ruling under article 2 and had held that it had been in error in holding that it was necessary to find that a materially increased risk to the applicants would arise from their giving evidence. It had said “the issue is more properly addressed by asking ... ‘Will the requirement to give evidence give rise to a real risk to life?’" His Lordship referred to Osman v United Kingdom (Application No 23452/94) ((1998) 29 EHRR 245, paragraphs 115-116) and said that it was clear from the subsequent development of the case law that the positive obligation to protect the right to life arose only when the risk was “real and immediate".

The threshold was high. The requirement that the fear had to be real meant that it had to be objectively well founded.

There was also a reflection of the principle of proportionality, striking a fair balance between the general rights of the community and the personal rights of the individual.

The standard was based on reasonableness, which brought in consideration of the circumstances of the case, the ease or difficulty of taking precautions and the resources available.

The principles that applied to the common-law duty of fairness were in some respects different from those in respect of an article 2 risk. They entailed consideration of concerns other than the risk to life, and subjective fears, even if well founded, could be taken into account.

Although it did not specifically so state, it was inherent in the inquiry’s discussion of the article 2 issue that it did not consider that the preexisting risk to the officers was sufficiently severe to reach the level of a real and immediate risk.

It had then posed the question whether in respect of any applicant the risk would be materially increased if he or she were required to give evidence without anonymity. That had been a correct test to apply.

The Court of Appeal had been wrong to conclude that the question to ask was “Is there a real risk?" rather than “Is there an increase in the risk?"

If there was not a real and immediate risk before giving evidence, then ex hypothesi to reach the threshold there had to be some increase in the risk.

The inquiry had been correct to ask the same question when considering the common-law duty. If the risk had not been increased, it was not unfair on that account to require a witness to give evidence.

The decisions of the judge and the Court of Appeal could not be sustained. The issue of Wednesbury unreasonableness ( Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation ([1948] 1 KB 223)) had not been discussed below and the issue was remitted to the judge for determination.

His Lordship suggested, for the future, that the exercise to be carried out by an inquiry faced with a request for anonymity should be the application of the common law test with an excursion, if the facts required it, into the territory of article 2.

Lord Hoffmann, Lord Woolf, Lord Brown and Lord Mance agreed.

Solicitors: Ms Judi Kemish, Victoria; Edwards & Co, Belfast; Treasury Solicitor; P, J. McGrory, Belfast.

The Antagonist - August 16, 2007 12:19 PM (GMT)
Channel 4 News' Darshna Soni addresses some of the issues surrounding the Inquiries Act 2005:
QUOTE
7/7and the public inquiry dilemma

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2007
By: Darshna Soni


Survivors and bereaved relatives of the 7/7 attacks have again called for a public inquiry, yesterday outlining the legal case under article 2 of the European Human Rights Act.

The government has consistently refused, arguing it will cost too much, it will take too long, it will only tell us what we already know. But this refusal has led to cynicism, a belief that somehow, someone is hiding something.

I recently reported that almost 60 per cent of British Muslims feel that the government hasn¿t told the truth about the bombings.

And of course, it's not just Muslims who question the official version of events.

An independent, public inquiry would go a long way to regaining trust. But how independent or public would it really be? You may imagine something like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, or the report into the last foot and mouth outbreak or into the Harold Shipman case - the public were allowed to attend and journalists mostly free to report.

However, a month before the 7 July bombings, the government rushed through a new piece of legislation, the Inquiries Act 2005, which effectively means ministers are now in control of 'independent' inquiries.

The Act was quietly slipped in and didn't receive a great deal of attention at the time. The Home Secretary can now:

    * decide whether there should be an inquiry
    * set and amend its terms of reference
    * appoint its members
    * restrict public access to inquiries
    * prevent the publication of evidence placed before an inquiry

The Act was introduced in response to the death of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries. It is alleged that members of the security forces, and those responsible for them, colluded in his killing.

In April 2004, an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments, concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in Patrick Finucane's case.

In response, the government created the Inquiries Act. It means, to the fury of Mr Finucane's family, that much of the inquiry will take place in private. Amnesty International has urged judges not to serve on any panel.

The 7/7 campaigners who went to the Home Office yesterday are aware of the potential impact of the legislation. But as survivor Rachel North explains, for now they just want a proper response from the government, after two long and painful years.

For more on the Inquiries Act, see:

The Green Ribbon

The July 7th Truth Campaign

Bridget - August 16, 2007 02:21 PM (GMT)

Sinclair - August 16, 2007 05:09 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Bridget @ Aug 16 2007, 02:21 PM)
Darshna's Blog Post, please comment:

http://www.channel4.com/blogs/page/newsroo...y_it_s_time_for

I'm getting a Apologies, but this page is temporarily unavailable. message from the link above.

I found this link by browsinghttp://www.channel4.com/blogs/page/newsroo...y_it_s_time_for

My comment is now up there.

The Antagonist - August 16, 2007 06:32 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Sinclair @ Aug 16 2007, 06:09 PM)
QUOTE (Bridget @ Aug 16 2007, 02:21 PM)
Darshna's Blog Post, please comment:

http://www.channel4.com/blogs/page/newsroo...y_it_s_time_for

I'm getting a Apologies, but this page is temporarily unavailable. message from the link above.

I found this link by browsinghttp://www.channel4.com/blogs/page/newsroo...y_it_s_time_for

My comment is now up there.

Hmm, nothing seems to be working for me on the Channel 4 news site.

The Antagonist - August 16, 2007 10:49 PM (GMT)
Comment number 2:
QUOTE
Posted by M8TT on 16 August 2007, 11:12 PM

It's long overdue that the Inquiries Act 2005 was addressed. As you will be aware, this act makes 'inquiries' into a mere tool of obfuscation - and reinforcement of the 'narrative' - or fear story - of the day. This is a situation in dire need of remedy, such remedy, however, requires first, courageous actions and voices such as your own. I very much hope that you receive further encouragement, in regard to the matter of making this act the subject of proper investigation, and, we can only hope and attempt to bring, its repeal. The act raises the spectre of a severe reduction in honest state operation on our behalf, something evidenced in the solidarity of objection to the act from organisations such as Amnesty International. It is vital that rather than some limited, government manufactured 'fudge' inquiry as to how the likes of MI5 'messed up' and let the deceased - convicted in the court of skewed public opinion - accused slip through the net, we instead are given a full, open, transparent and evidence based rather than narrative based explanation of the events of the morning of 7th July 2005. This is not only preferable, but vital in stead of another vague whitewash where the only conclusion drawn, is the need for increased state power and greater funding - such that the security services may make larger, more expensive mistakes, until the next round of snowballing. Please accept my gratitude to you for raising this issue, my concern over the seeming disingenuous nature of modern reporting is somewhat lessened thanks to your efforts, and indeed your previous efforts in regard to the survey, although I very much hope that in future you are green lighted to conduct surveys that are less divisive, and which ask non Muslims their opinions also. My regards M

cmain - August 16, 2007 11:54 PM (GMT)
So who is the judge who is going against all the advice and chairing the Billy Wright Inquiry under the 2005 Act?

Lord MacLean.

He was a judge in the Lockerbie trial which convicted a Libyan.

He is chairman of the governors of Fettes school in Edinburgh, the institution which has given us Hugh Crichton-Miller (founder of the Tavistock Clinic), Tony Blair and his debating partner Bill Gammell who just happens to be a good friend of George W Bush.

The Antagonist - September 10, 2007 08:37 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
6 September, 2007
Hegarty murder : Anderson calls for Inquiry

user posted image
Daniel Hegarty

British admit killing innocent teenager


The British Ministry of Defence has agreed to temporarily withdraw and amend its controversial military analysis of Operation Banner, the British Army codename for operations in Ireland between August 1969 and 31 July 2007.

Stephanie English of the Pat Finucane Centre explained:

“The decision was prompted by a complaint we lodged on behalf of the family of Derry teenager Daniel Hegarty who was shot dead by British soldiers during Operation Motorman in the early hours of 31 July, 1972 in the Creggan estate, Derry.

“In July this year the Pat Finucane Centre alerted the media and public to the existence of the military document and highlighted a number of serious errors and gaps in the document. These included a reference to Operation Motorman where it was claimed that Daniel Hegarty, an unarmed 15-year-old, was a ‘terrorist’.

“We wrote to Defence Minister Des Brown in July and called from the document to be withdrawn and the reference to Daniel Hegarty corrected. We pointed out that (then NIO Minister) Des Brown had actually written to the Hegarty family in 2003 and had expressly clarified that “neither I nor the Government have ever said that Daniel was a terrorist.” 

The British Ministry of Defence has now replied and confirmed that:

“As you state in your letter the Secretary of State has previously written letters to the effect that Daniel is considered innocent and we continue to stand by those comments. The paragraph in question is inaccurate and this should have been picked up during proof reading, but unfortunately was not.”

The MOD spokesperson continued:

“ I recognise the considerable distress this must have caused the family and I have instructed that the report be removed from our website and an amended version produced. I would also like to offer my sincere apologies to Daniel’s family...”
Daniel Hegarty’s sister Margaret Brady has welcomed the belated recognition of the hurt caused to the family.

“I welcome the fact that this document is to be amended. It’s wrong that we should have to fight to clear Daniel’s name when the wrong was done to us in the first place. I only wish they would accept that the British Army shot many, many people without justification and where they posed no threat. Young Seamus Bradley was shot that same night and his inquest found that he was unarmed”, Brady said.

Stephanie English of the Pat Finucane Centre said:

“To be honest we were in for the long haul and thought that much more pressure would be needed but it seems that very few people in Whitehall are willing to stand over this document which is littered with inaccuracies, exaggerations and deeply racist assumptions. We do feel it important to set the record straight. It’s a pity that the other rubbish cannot be corrected but at least this represents a small victory for the Hegarty family.

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has said that there now needs to be a full independent inquiry into the shooting dead of Daniel Hegarty.

“The admission by the British Government that Daniel Hegarty was ‘not a terrorist’ does not go far enough. What is needed is a full, independent inquiry into why this child was shot dead at point blank range on the morning of the 31 July 1972. The British government need to disclose all the facts relating to this case”, Anderson said.

“I congratulate Daniel’s family for their tenacity in pursuing the British government for the truth surrounding his cold-blooded murder. Their success in forcing this movement from the British government will bring comfort and encouragement to the hundreds of other families who are also fighting to get to the truth of their loved ones’ murders by British state forces and their acolytes in the unionist death squads. Sinn Féin will continue in our support in whatever future course the Hegarty family chooses to pursue”, she said.

The Antagonist - September 10, 2007 08:40 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Orde bid to keep secret identities of informers
[Published: Wednesday 5, September 2007 - 07:51]

By Chris Thornton


A battleground between the police and collusion inquiries has been highlighted by Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, who fears the inquiries could harm the wider fight against terror.

Sir Hugh is digging in his heels about supplying the names of informers to the ongoing inquiries - and is considering whether he can use a powerful legal gag to keep their identities secret.

As the Billy Wright Inquiry prepares special hearings about the problems it has had procuring evidence, the Chief Constable indicated he is talking to his lawyers about the use of Public Interest Immunity Certificates.

That would probably require the agreement of Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.

In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Hugh said he is under conflicting legal obligations - the protection of informers against the requirement to show the inquiries whatever evidence they want to see.

"The legislation gives huge powers to demand anything and everything and then to decide on relevance," he said.

"There are professional issues around the conflict between the powers of the inquiries and, for example, my obligations under Article 2, Section 29 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act about protecting the identity of informants."

Three collusion inquiries are presently under way, looking into the murders of Wright, the LVF leader killed in the Maze, solicitor Rosemary Nelson, and Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill.

A fourth UK inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane has not been set up, and the Republic is also holding an inquiry into the murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.

Sir Hugh is not under the same legal obligations to that inquiry, but with the UK inquiries he is obliged to hand over whatever documents the investigating tribunal asks for, although they are not necessarily published.

"The law says I give it," said Sir Hugh. "All my legal advice is that I have no alternative . . . That has national and international implications."

He said informers would be discouraged from providing information if they believed there was a risk that they would later be exposed to an inquiry.

"Who is going to be an informer on anything - look at the international terrorism connection in the UK now - if it's clear that five years down the line, 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line an inquiry can demand all that information from me and I can't protect him?"

He said some officers have told him it is already becoming more difficult to recruit informers.

Later this month, the Wright Inquiry will hold two days of special hearings about the problems it has had recovering evidence. The inquiry's lawyers have previously criticised the PSNI for delays in producing documents, although the PSNI has previously insisted that it provided all documents sought by the inquiry.


QUOTE
Orde urged to reveal Stevens probe secrets
[Published: Thursday 6, September 2007 - 08:15]

By Chris Thornton

The PSNI Chief Constable will be pushed today to publish the secret reports of the Stevens Inquiry.


Sir Hugh Orde was being asked at today's Policing Board meeting to produce the reports - because the Government says it's up to him whether the confidential documents are released or not.

Lord Stevens conducted three investigations into collusion allegations between 1989 and 2003, producing reports on each inquiry that amount to thousands of pages.

Sir Hugh contributed to the third report - acting as the operational head of the Stevens Inquiry - then received its final draft after he became PSNI chief constable.

A condensed summary of that report was released in 2003, declaring that members of the security forces had colluded with loyalists in a number of crimes, including murder.

At the end of June this year, four years after the report was submitted, the Prosecution Service announced that there would be no new prosecutions arising out of the third Stevens Inquiry.

Campaigners say that should remove any obstacles to publishing the reports, although there is the possibility of a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, which was the focus of the third inquiry.

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey says he decided to ask Sir Hugh directly about publishing the reports after seeing the Government statement that the reports are the responsibility of the PSNI.

Former Secretary of State Peter Hain made the declaration in a letter sent to the group Relatives for Justice.

"I'm basically saying to the Chief Constable 'do you intend to publish all or any of these reports?'" Mr Maskey said.

"These reports have been outstanding for years.

"They've never been published - one was part published, but more often there have been leaks and speculation.

"The chief constable talks about the past regularly, saying it gets in the way of policing and inquiries cost too much.

"Our argument is that the truth doesn't cost money - it's the cover-up that costs money.

"At the last Policing Board meeting we spent some time probing around the issue of Stevens and the inquiries.

"I'm asking him now, let's cut to the chase: 'do you intend to publish or not?'"

Relatives for Justice, a group that campaigns for greater revelations about collusion, supports the call to publish.

Mark Thompson, the organisation's director, said: "Peter Hain told us that the chief constable has the sole responsibility for publication.

"Obviously with the Prosecution Service's decision not to prosecute anyone, there's no impediment to publication.

"There's no reason now not to do it."

Mr Maskey says he has also raised questions about the protocol for PSNI presentations to the Board.

He says he wants the Board to push the PSNI for presentations on topics of their choice.

"It's not good enough that we turn up and get a presentation. We should be asking for the topics," he said.

"It's part of the process of the Policing Board taking greater responsibility."

The Antagonist - September 10, 2007 08:47 PM (GMT)
Here's the line that should be understood from the Troubles, public inquiries 'could hinder fight against terror'. Sound familiar?
QUOTE
Ulster police chief: don't make me name informers

· Public inquiries 'could hinder fight against terror'
· Revealing identities puts lives at risk, Orde warns

Owen Bowcott and Sandra Laville
Tuesday September 4, 2007
The Guardian


Recruiting informers to anti-terrorist operations will become impossible if public inquiries are allowed to expose people who provided information in the past, a senior police officer has warned.

Northern Ireland's chief constable, Sir Hugh Orde, believes the long-term fight against al-Qaida would be damaged by judges' demands to release the identities of informants.

Sir Hugh, who is required to supply police documents naming scores of informants to four judicial inquiries into controversial killings during the Troubles, told the Guardian he had problems reconciling his duty to cooperate with investigations and his responsibility to prevent the names of agents being revealed. His comments signal a possible public clash with the judges involved in running the long-awaited public inquiries.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Hugh said he believed the release of the identities of informants during imminent public inquiries could lead to people being killed and have a direct impact on the fight against international terrorism. "If someone is thinking of informing and then they see that in 10 or 15 years' time their names will be published they are not likely to want to do it." Last year the Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, who worked for special branch, was shot dead at a remote cottage in County Donegal.

There are three UK inquiries for which the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is providing documents. They are judicial investigations into the killing of the loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Wright in the Maze prison, the car bomb murder of the civil rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson and the beating to death of Robert Hamill, allegedly in view of RUC officers.

A fourth inquiry, being held in the Irish Republic, is into the murders south of the border of two senior RUC officers by the IRA in 1989. A scheduled inquiry into the killing of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has not begun. All the deaths involved allegations of collusion between paramilitaries and the authorities.

"The legislation gives [these inquiries] huge powers to demand anything and everything and then to decide on relevance," Sir Hugh said. "There are professional issues around the conflict between the powers of the inquiries and, for example, my obligations under article 2, section 29, of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act about protecting the identity of informants.

"Who is going to be an informer on anything - look at the international terrorism connection in the UK now - if it's clear that five years down the line, 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line an inquiry can demand all that information from me and I can't protect him?" Sir Hugh said he could not withhold documents under the inquiries act but he was discussing with lawyers the use of public interest immunity certificates preventing the disclosure of evidence leading to identities being revealed.

"The law says I give it. All my legal advice is that I have no alternative ... That has national and international implications."

The chief constable said he had received anecdotal accounts from some officers that it was already becoming harder to recruit informers and others had questioned why they would subject themselves to the hard and dangerous life of being a handler. The cost and time spent servicing the inquiries was also a drag on the PSNI's resources, he said. "All this will have an impact on day to day policing."

Sir Hugh, who became chief constable in 2002, has been tipped as a strong candidate to become the next head of the Metropolitan police. Asked whether the time had come for the province to consider setting up a truth and reconciliation process which could grant amnesties, Sir Hugh said: "My personal view is everything should be considered."

Policing in Northern Ireland is slowly returning to normality: Operation Banner, the army's routine support of the police, has come to an end after 38 years.

Asked about the anti-terrorist lessons other forces could learn from the Troubles in their fight against al-Qaida, Sir Hugh said suicide bombing had never been used in Northern Ireland. But he added: "The bit no one is getting right, and we didn't get right here, was that if you don't have the confidence of the communities you are not going to get the intelligence to stop the next attack."

Kier - September 26, 2007 10:55 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (The Antagonist @ Apr 14 2007, 12:41 PM)
QUOTE
http://www.legalweek.com/ViewItem.asp?id=25222

Why The Rush?

The Inquiries Act was rushed through Parliament before the
General Election was called this year. While many of its
provisions have been welcomed, questions remain over the
independence of some of the most sensitive inquiries, says
Kate Thirlwall

The Inquiries Act 2005 came into force on 7 June. It was
passed amid a storm of protest from human rights groups on
5 April, 2005 — the day before Parliament was dissolved in
advance of the last General Election. The Government
asserts that this is essentially consolidating and
codifying legislation. In that case, why the rush?
Administrative tidy-mindedness is rarely a priority so late
in the life of a Parliament.

Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, was murdered in 1989
by loyalist paramilitaries. Peter Cory, a retired judge of
the Canadian Supreme Court, recommended that a public
inquiry be held into his murder. The Government agreed. A
press release dated 23 September, 2004 stated: "In order
that the inquiry can take place speedily and effectively
and in a way that takes into account the public interest,
including the requirements of national security, it will be
necessary to hold the inquiry on the basis of new
legislation which will be introduced shortly."

The legislation in question was the Inquiries Act 2005. Mr
Finucane's widow has asked all judges in the UK to refuse
to chair the inquiry if it is to be held under the 2005
Act. To date no chairman has been announced.

Space does not allow for detailed analysis. What follows is
a bird's eye view of the main provisions with a closer look
at the controversial new restriction notices. The Act
provides a comprehensive framework for all inquiries set up
by ministers. This was long overdue. It replaces a
multitude of different statutes all allowing inquiries to
be held in different circumstances.

The Act

The minister decides whether an inquiry is to take place.
That was the position before, save in respect of inquiries
set up under the Tribunal of Inquiries Act 1921, which
required resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. While
the change might be perceived to downgrade public
inquiries, in practical terms it makes little difference.

The panel

The minister selects the panel. Assessors may also be
appointed and where the minister seeks to appoint a judge
he must consult with the higher judiciary. Sections eight
and nine of the Act require that panel members are suitable
to their task and that they are impartial. All of this
simply gives statutory effect to the previous situation.

Terms of reference

The minister sets out the terms of reference, but he is
required before setting out or amending them to consult the
chairman or proposed chairman. No change there. When
writing to the judiciary, Lord Woolf suggested that when
deciding whether to chair an inquiry under the Act, a judge
would look at all the circumstances of the inquiry. Of
particular importance would be the terms of reference.

Removal of panel members

Section 12 of the Act gives the minister powers to remove
panel members on certain grounds and there is a procedure
for such removal.

Suspension of the inquiry

Suspension of the inquiry is permitted in limited
circumstances, where another investigation is dealing with
the matters under consideration by the inquiry, when civil
or criminal proceedings are on foot. The chairman must be
consulted. The minister must issue a notice setting out the
basis for the suspension and specifying when it will come
to an end. Parliament must be informed. This codifies and
makes transparent what happened before.

Inquiry procedure

The chairman decides the procedure for the inquiry. He may
order the attendance of witnesses and the production of
documents. So far there are no detailed rules, although
that may change. The chairman now has an express
responsibility to avoid unnecessary costs.

The controversy

The Act states that proceedings will be held in public.
This was the position before the Act, for most cases

most of the time. It was, however, generally recognised
that public proceedings can intimidate witnesses and
inhibit frankness, contrary to the aims of any inquiry.
Thus, for example, in inquiries into child abuse
arrangements were made for victims to give evidence in
private. Where matters of security and safety have been
raised, security officers have given evidence anonymously
and from behind screens. Plainly, very different reasons
required these arrangements. Importantly, the decisions to
allow this reduction in public access were made by the
tribunal, not the minister.

The new Act changes that. It provides that attendance at an
inquiry and the public production of documents may be
restricted in two ways. Firstly, by the issuing of a
restriction notice by the minister, or secondly by the
making of a restriction order by the chairman.

The first of these is, in my view, objectionable. The
chairman is presiding over the inquiry. To be credible he
and the panel must be independent of government. It is for
the chairman, not the minister, to decide how and in what
circumstances evidence is received and whether it should be
disclosed.

Before deciding whether to issue the notice/make the order,
the minister or chairman must take into

account a number of matters including the risk of harm that
could be avoided by the restriction. Harm includes damage
to national security or international relations and damage
to the economic interests of the UK or part of the UK.

The chairman has no power to revoke a restriction order.
Presumably, he may ask the minister to vary it or to revoke
it. If the minister refuses then presumably the chairman
will seek to challenge the minister through the courts.
This is unattractive.

There is no apparent justification for giving the minister
this power. In the years before June 2005 in the course of
public inquiries, as in litigation, matters of Public
Interest Immunity (PII) arose. The relevant minister issued
a PII certificate in relation to the information. The
tribunal then considered the certificate together with the
information to which it attached and ruled as to whether
the information should be disclosed or not — see the
decisions in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, for example. There,
the panel ruled in favour of the Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland and material was either not disclosed or
disclosed in limited form. No-one appealed.

There has been no suggestion by government or by anyone
else that any tribunal has been unable prop-erly to deal
with these issues in the past. There is no basis for
removing from them such decisions now. It is an unfortunate
development.

It is right to say that the evidence will still go before
the inquiry, but it will not be in the public domain,
unless the notice is revoked. Why not trust the tribunal to
make decisions as to what should be in the public domain?

Finally, on this issue note the provisions of section 23 of
the Act. Applications may be made to the panel by the
Crown, the Bank of England and others that certain evidence
should not be in the public domain on the grounds that it
will damage the economy. The panel (not the Bank of
England) decides such applications, taking into account any
restriction notices.

Other matters

The protection in respect of defamation proceedings offered
by the Act should reassure nervous witnesses who are now in
the same position as witnesses in court proceedings.
Privilege is explicitly protected. It is helpful to have
set out exactly what happens with regard to the publishing
of the report and how an inquiry comes to an end. Current
inquiries may be converted into Inquiries Act inquiries -
this too could be controversial.

The Act is good in very many parts. But the ministerial
power over restriction notices risks undermining public
confidence in the independence of some our most sensitive
inquiries.

Kate Thirlwall QC is a member of Seven Bedford Row.
Author: Legal week
Source: Legal Week
Start Date: 04/08/2005
End Date: 11/08/2005


Source: Irish Aire News with thanks to Truthseeker for the find.

The Antagonist - October 2, 2007 03:18 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Lessons from Stockline

Efficient, focused and purposeful is the description agreed by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, and the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, for the public inquiry announced yesterday into the blast at the ICL/Stockline plastics factory. It will be the first test of provisions for a joint public inquiry set up by UK and Scottish ministers under the Inquiries Act 2005 designed to deliver "high-quality conclusions and recommendations quickly and at reasonable cost". It needs to fulfil all expectations.

Bereaved families, who want to find out how their relatives lost their lives, often achieve that only by listening to a great deal of painful evidence. For them, the most positive outcome is when, as a result, the authorities accept and act on the recommendations. In recent years there have been two particularly memorable inquiries which achieved that, both chaired by Lord Cullen. He made 105 recommendations - all of which were accepted - on safety for offshore workers at the end of the inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster in which 167 men died. He also chaired the inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane Primary School, as a result of which he recommended changes to the licensing and holding of handguns (private ownership of handguns was later banned).

The prospect of an equally productive result has prompted the campaign for a public inquiry into the Stockline explosion, rather than a fatal accident inquiry, which would simply establish the facts surrounding the deaths. There has been a court case and an independent report by academics in occupational health and safety after the blast that killed nine people and injured 33 at the plastics factory in Maryhill, Glasgow, in 2004. ICL Plastics and ICL Tech were fined £400,000 at the High Court in Glasgow, but because they pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches, the issues were not aired in court. Since then, the report's authors have made public their concerns about the Health and Safety Executive, suggesting there has been greater focus on funding than effectiveness.

There are many questions still to be answered. We need to know how often and how thoroughly inspections were made of the equipment and the building where an industrial process involving chemicals and high temperatures was carried out in the middle of a residential area. There are further questions about the planning process which allowed this inauspicious mix, and about the fire controls and escape routes, given the potential hazards.

It is not only the bereaved families, the injured and their colleagues at ICL who are looking for strong recommendations and action. We all want to know that safety legislation is adhered to and inspections are not subject to budget cuts. A public inquiry chaired by a judge is the right vehicle to learn from this tragedy and make it less likely to

The Antagonist - October 23, 2007 04:58 PM (GMT)
For anyone that's interested in the details:
QUOTE
# Inquiries Act 2005 c.12
QUOTE
    * 2005 c.12 - Web version (HTML)
    * 2005 c.12 - Print version (PDF - 206 KB)
    * 2005 c.12 - Explanatory Note (HTML)
    * 2005 c.12 - Explanatory Note (PDF - 169 KB)



justthefacts - October 23, 2007 06:29 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (The Antagonist @ Oct 23 2007, 04:58 PM)
For anyone that's interested in the details:
QUOTE
# Inquiries Act 2005 c.12
QUOTE
    * 2005 c.12 - Web version (HTML)
    * 2005 c.12 - Print version (PDF - 206 KB)
    * 2005 c.12 - Explanatory Note (HTML)
    * 2005 c.12 - Explanatory Note (PDF - 169 KB)

QUOTE
22 Privileged information etc

(1) A person may not under section 21 be required to give, produce or provide any evidence or document if—

( a ) he could not be required to do so if the proceedings of the inquiry were civil proceedings in a court in the relevant part of the United Kingdom, or

( b ) the requirement would be incompatible with a Community obligation.

(2) The rules of law under which evidence or documents are permitted or required to be withheld on grounds of public interest immunity apply in relation to an inquiry as they apply in relation to civil proceedings in a court in the relevant part of the United Kingdom.


A "Community obligation" is apparently one that relates to the European Union. I found an explanation of how it relates to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/FOI.../paragraphB.asp

cmain - January 18, 2008 10:19 PM (GMT)
The recent question in the House of Lords about David Kelly specifically requested an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005:

QUOTE
Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether, as a result of new evidence recently published, they will set up an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to investigate in full the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we have no plans to do so.


Source: House of Lords Hansard

After they took the trouble to get it passed before the election in 2005, they seem remarkably reluctant to use it.

The Antagonist - January 30, 2008 08:11 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Families to be included in e.coli inquiry
Jan 30 2008 by Abby Alford, South Wales Echo

FAMILIES directly affected by the e.coli outbreak will play a major part in the public inquiry which begins in less than two weeks.

They have been named as core participants in the hearings, to be chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington, alongside Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf councils, the Food Standards Agency, local health boards and the National Public Health Service for Wales.

The inquiry will begin on February 12, and be held in Cardiff. As it is the first inquiry to be wholly set up under the Inquiries Act 2005, Prof Pennington will have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence. Those who are asked and refuse risk committing a criminal offence.

Details of witnesses are due to be released later this week, but Sharon Mills, mum of e.coli victim Mason Jones who died in October, 2005, after contracting the food poisoning bug, has already revealed she has agreed to give evidence.

Prof Pennington cannot apportion blame or award compensation, but he will be allowed to make a series of recommendations.

The Antagonist - February 28, 2008 05:50 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Councillors barred from conducting own inquiry
Feb 28 2008 by Abby Alford, South Wales Echo

THE council at the centre of the E.coli outbreak has blocked its own members from launching an internal inquiry, writes Abby Alford.

The Echo has learned Bridgend councillors wanted to examine its environmental health department’s inspection regime of John Tudor and Son in the wake of the 2005 outbreak, which resulted in the death of five-year-old Mason Jones.

But senior council officers put a stop to the move by the cross-party environmental scrutiny committee, telling members any investigation could prejudice the court case against owner William Tudor.

The court case concluded in September last year when Tudor was jailed for supplying contaminated meat.

But the Echo understands the ban on councillors holding an inquiry remains, with officers telling committee members they must not proceed until at least after the conclusion of hearings in the E.coli public inquiry and chairman Professor Pennington has published his report.

It is believed they have told members this is because they want to ensure the inquiry is conducted fairly. But there is nothing in the Inquiries Act 2005, which governs how the E.coli inquiry is run, that prevents Bridgend council holding an internal investigation.

It remains unclear whether an investigation will begin at Bridgend once the inquiry has finished.

“I find it shocking and frightening that Bridgend has not conducted an internal inquiry,” said Julie Price, 43, from Aberaman, near Aberdare, whose son Garyn, came close to death after contracting E.coli in 2005. “Bridgend council needs to look within its own closed doors to find out what has gone wrong.”

The inquiry has heard how Bridgend environmental health officer Angela Coles, who inspected Tudor’s premises on Bridgend Industrial Estate four times before the outbreak began in September 2005, allowed Tudor to continue trading even though she knew he used just one vacuum-packer for raw and cooked meat and there was a serious risk of cross contamination.

The inquiry’s lead counsel, James Eadie, also accused Bridgend council of concentrating on Tudor’s “dishonesty” instead of failings in its inspection processes.

No-one at Bridgend council was available to comment today.

Sinclair - March 19, 2008 03:07 PM (GMT)
Link to a House of Commons Research Paper on the Inquiries Act 2005:

QUOTE

The Inquiries Bill [HL] [Bill 70 of 2004-05]
The Bill aims to modernise the framework for conducting statutory inquiries set up by Ministers into events that have caused public concern or which have the potential to cause public concern. The Bill repeals the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, the current statutory basis for many of the major inquiries of this type, as well as a number of other legislative inquiry provisions. (Link to Research Paper 05/21)

source:http://www.parliament.uk


Note the comments (from Page 51+) of the lack of “pre-legislative scrutiny” etc. etc.



The Antagonist - April 8, 2008 12:30 AM (GMT)
QUOTE
The great defender?

Michael Mansfield made his name as a crusading legal hero, helping to overturn terrible miscarriages of justice. So why did this brilliant barrister agree to represent Mohamed Al Fayed in the Diana inquest - a case 'demonstrably without foundation'? Clare Dyer charts his career


    * Clare Dyer
    * The Guardian,
    * Tuesday April 8 2008

user posted image
Mohamed Al Fayed and his barrister Michael Mansfield QC arrive at the high court in London. Photograph: Stephen Kelly/PA

He was the hero of the Battle of Orgreave, who won acquittals for dozens of picketing miners who faced riot charges in the 80s after protesting over the pit closures that killed off their livelihoods. He helped expose the edifice of worthless science and forced confessions on which the convictions of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four had been built. Representing the family of Stephen Lawrence at the inquiry into the teenager's death, he persuaded the chairman, Sir William Macpherson, to rule that the police were institutionally racist - a finding that has reverberated throughout the justice system. At the Bloody Sunday inquiry he sought truth and justice for the families of the internment protest marchers shot dead by British paratroopers in the streets of Derry more than 30 years ago. He represented the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian shot to death by police in mistake for a terrorist in 2005.

For 40 years, Michael Mansfield QC has fought for the underdog and the wrongly imprisoned, overturning some of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice and staking a claim as one of the country's leading human rights lawyers. No mere mouthpiece, Mansfield is a socialist who throws himself passionately into his clients' causes. As he once told the Guardian: "I do feel that reputation, standing up for principle, is one of the few ways in which a difference can be made."

So what principle has he been standing up for in the past few months as chief counsel for Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed in his bid to pin the deaths of Diana and Dodi on the royal family and the security services? How could he have brought himself to represent a case, in the words of the coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, "so demonstrably without foundation" on behalf of his very rich client? The great radical lawyer has been accused of selling out and abandoning the principles of a lifetime to lend his name and reputation to the billionaire businessman's dubious conspiracy theories. The contrast with the Stephen Lawrence inquiry could hardly be starker: what difference could he possibly have made at the Diana inquest when it was already abundantly clear, before £7m was spent, that the pair had simply died in a tragic accident?

The fat fees must have been an enticement: Mansfield has clocked up £575 an hour for his services to Fayed, if the Lawyer magazine is right, and will have pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds representing the bereaved Harrods owner at the inquest and in associated forays to the law courts to challenge the coroners' rulings.

But those close to the veteran civil rights lawyer argue that the latest addition to his CV is just more of the same. What's so different about standing up for an immigrant shopkeeper who believes his son died at the hands of the establishment? And he would probably cite the Bar's cab-rank rule, which stipulates that a barrister, like a taxi, is for hire to all comers. Who would defend the Rosemary Wests or Ian Huntleys if barristers could pick and choose? He once described his job as "defending the indefensible", so there's no reason why he should blench at airing Fayed's preposterous allegations. Why would the man who told the jury at Barry George's murder trial that Jill Dando's killer was a professional hitman who might have been recruited by the Serbian warlord Arkan in revenge for the Nato bombing of a Belgrade TV station balk at blaming Prince Philip and MI6 for plotting Diana's and Dodi's deaths?

In fact, when it came to it, Mansfield pulled his punches, as the coroner pointed out approvingly in his summing up this week. None of Fayed's more florid accusations were put to his chief suspects by Mansfield. The silk faithfully observed the rule that allegations should not be made without evidence. Sir Robert Fellowes was not asked if he had murdered his sister-in-law, and the suggestion that Prince Philip played a personal part in the deaths was not pursued.

Fellow lawyers doubt that it was Fayed's money that persuaded Mansfield to take the job, suggesting that a more likely inducement was the prospect of being centre stage in the eye of the world's media, cocking a snook at the royal family. They say he likes to be lionised and laps up the attention he gets from appearing in high-profile cases. "He's a bit full of himself. He is an important figure, but he doesn't wear his importance lightly," said one barrister. "He likes you to know that he's important." Thanks to the inquest, he seems to be well on course to win the title of the lawyer most mentioned in the media this year. Last year he came second in the survey by legal publishers Sweet & Maxwell, edged out only by Cherie Booth QC, another committed human rights lawyer who has never been averse to a plump pay packet.

Fortunately for them and for other successful radical lawyers who have reached the top ranks of the Bar, a bleeding heart and a social conscience have been perfectly compatible with a large income through the 90s and beyond. Only now is the government finally attempting to get to grips with the costs to legal aid of top QCs' fees: the £1-m-a-year legal aid lawyer is the last manifestation of a laissez-faire system which, justice ministers hope, is in its final throes.

Mansfield's name does not feature in the annual list of "fat cats" grossing more than £500,000 a year from criminal legal aid and he has declared his total earnings to be a mere £300,000. Much of this has come from inquests and inquiries, which are not paid from the legal aid budget. Over the years he has done his fair share of pro bono work - cases taken on free of charge. And he refused to join in an attempt by barristers at the Bloody Sunday inquiry to get their daily fees increased from £1,500 to more than £2,000, plus £250 an hour (instead of £200) for two hours' reading at the end of the day.

But he drew unwelcome headlines 10 years ago for demanding hourly fees even higher in 2008 terms than his reported rate for the Diana inquest - and in a legal aid case. In 1998 the law lords held an unprecedented inquiry into the fees claimed by QCs and juniors, among them Mansfield, in four cases that went to the House of Lords on appeal. Although there were cost guidelines for legal aid cases to appeal court level, there were none in the Lords, so the barristers - some of them, like Mansfield, from leading radical chambers - asked for what they thought the case was worth.

Mansfield put in for £20,000 of taxpayers' money for 43 hours' preparation and the first day of the House of Lords hearing in a murder case - £416 an hour. He ended up getting £10,000. The senior law lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, remarked: "All the information shows that quite astonishing fees were claimed compared with what was subsequently allowed ... It is pretty shattering, in my view."

Embroiled at the time in the Lawrence inquiry, Mansfield was annoyed to be portrayed as a legal-aid fat cat. He was later dubbed "Moneybags Mansfield" by newspapers, which accused him of hypocrisy when he represented multimillionaire TV entertainer Michael Barrymore, who chose to remain silent during crucial parts of his evidence, at the inquest into the death of butcher Stuart Lubbock, who was found dead in Barrymore's swimming pool. Remembering Mansfield's outrage when the five men accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence exercised the same right of silence at his inquest, the News of the World wrote: "Mr Mansfield is a millionaire campaigning leftwinger. The phrase 'human rights' is rarely far from his lips. Isn't it a pity we didn't hear more from him - or his client - about poor Stuart Lubbock's human rights?"

Mansfield said wearily at the time: "They've been having a go for a long, long time, for the fact that I'm earning a living ... It's not the first time, and it won't be the last."

In 1995 he fell victim to a kiss-and-tell, also in the News of the World, which headlined the story of his affair with Debbie Sadler "Love Rat QC Has Rumpo". She claimed he installed her in the same hotel as his wife and young son when they went on holiday and put beach towels out on the balcony to indicate when he was free for sex. He blamed his lapse on a "sheltered upbringing": he married his first wife young and had five children with her before falling for his second, Yvette Vanson, with whom he has a son.

But colleagues pay tribute to his advocacy skills and the mark he has made on the law. He stood up stubbornly to appeal court judges, in the cases of the false convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, who refused to contemplate the "appalling vista" - as Lord Denning put it - of police perjury and violence and invented confessions. That said, many lawyers accuse him of acting precipitately in helping the Lawrences bring a private prosecution against the five men believed responsible for Stephen Lawrence's death, after the Crown Prosecution Service said there was too little evidence to prosecute. The private prosecution collapsed and at the time - the law has since been changed - the double-jeopardy rule left the men immune to future prosecution even if new evidence emerged.

Now a grandfather of 66, Mansfield tours the country giving audiences in lecture halls, along with the likes of Tony Benn, John Mortimer and Michael Portillo. Brought up in a middle-class family in Finchley, north London, and educated at Highgate public school, he first saw poverty in the Potteries, where he took philosophy at Keele University. "Why law? To help other people make a difference so they can articulate their worries, fears and inquiries," he told an audience in London last month, recounting an anecdote about how he was inspired by his Tory-voting mother, who took on the authorities and won after she was summonsed for a parking offence she didn't commit and the police lied. Her acquittal made the front page of the Finchley Times.

Critics accuse Mansfield of liking the sound of his own voice a little too much, but the propensity to be a showman is hardly rare among jury advocates. "He is a very good advocate," concedes a fellow QC. "In the great scheme of things, he's a Good Thing. Yes, he's full of hot air, but who isn't?"

Anthony Scrivener, another veteran criminal silk, says: "He's a fearless advocate. He's never put off by the thought that he might be criticised by the court. He's done a lot of things to clean up the law. He played a very big part in the development of proper disclosure."

Scrivener points out that Mansfield, unlike many other left-leaning lawyers, was never seduced by New Labour and criticised the Blair government for its failings from the beginning. Gordon Brown has fared no better: Mansfield has described him as "Blair without the bling", warned that Britain is living "very close to, if not in, a police state" and characterised the country as "a non-participative democracy in which the ballot box is rendered almost powerless".

As the Diana inquest draws to a close, he moves on to the next task: representing the family of Pat Finucane, the solicitor murdered in his north Belfast home by UDA members 19 years ago, at the inquiry into his death. The government plans to hold it under the Inquiries Act 2005, which gives ministers control over its procedures, including the right to determine how much is heard in public and to block publication of evidence. Michael Finucane, Pat's eldest son, said the legal team would be briefed "to ensure that the inquiry will not become a government vehicle for suppression". Not quite the "bling" of Fayed, then.

The Antagonist - April 26, 2008 05:45 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Scotland to hold inquiry into contaminated blood products
25 April 2008

The Scottish government has launched an inquiry into why people were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood and blood products prior to the introduction of testing in 1991.

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said the decision fulfilled a manifesto commitment and was a victory for campaigners who had spent more than 15 years pursuing an inquiry.

The inquiry, to be chaired by the Right Honourable Lady Cosgrove, will focus on the deaths of Rev David Black and Eileen O’Hara, as well investigating more broadly the circumstances in which Hepatitis C and HIV were transmitted through NHS treatment with blood and blood products in Scotland.

“This tragedy has blighted the lives of a number of people in Scotland and we are committed to a thorough inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened,” Sturgeon said. “We owe an explanation to patients and the public of what took place. The Scottish Government also has a duty to ensure that lessons have been learned for the future.”

Sturgeon said the shape of the inquiry will be determined by Cosgrove and may include examining issues such as the sources of blood and blood products used by the NHS in Scotland at the time; the demand for blood products in Scotland, including factor VIII for haemophiliacs; the introduction in Scotland of heat treatment for blood and blood products and whether this could have taken place earlier; the introduction in Scotland of effective screening of blood donations for the Hepatitis C and HIV viruses and whether relevant tests were put in place; and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service's practices at the time.

It is two years since the Health Committee voted that there should be a public inquiry. It will be held under section 28 of the Inquiries Act 2005.

The Antagonist - May 21, 2008 10:09 AM (GMT)
QUOTE
Amnesty International
UK inquiry into torture and death of Iraqi in UK custody must be independent

16 May 2008


Amnesty International has welcomed the public inquiry into the case of an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died after being tortured over a period of 36 hours while detained by UK troops in Basra.

Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old father of two, died in September 2003. A post-mortem examination revealed 93 separate injuries on his body.

Amnesty International said: "This recognition by the UK authorities of the need for a full public inquiry into the case is long-overdue. The family of Baha Mousa and their legal representatives, along with NGOs, including Amnesty International, have spent years campaigning for such an inquiry.

"It should not have taken so long for the UK authorities to acknowledge that an inquiry was needed, given the shocking facts of this case and the obvious inadequacies of the initial investigations," the organization said.

“What is now needed – at the very least – is a genuinely full, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into all of the circumstances of the torture and death of Baha Mousa, and the torture of a number of other Iraqi nationals detained at around the same time as him,” said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has called for the inquiry to be given a broad enough remit to allow it to fully investigate how, when, where, why and by whom the advice was given that it was lawful for members of the UK armed forces to ‘condition’ detainees by the use of techniques such as hooding, sleep deprivation and placing in stress positions.

These techniques have long been outlawed in the UK, but had become, in the words of the judge presiding over the court martial arising from the case in 2007, “standard operating procedure” among the troops responsible for detaining Baha Mousa. The judge hearing the court martial described it as “a serious failing in the chain of command all the way up to Brigade and beyond”.

The terms of reference of the inquiry in this case are yet to be announced, but it has been confirmed that the intention is to hold it under the controversial Inquiries Act 2005. Amnesty International believes that this would damage the inquiry’s independence, impartiality and thoroughness. An inquiry under the Inquiries Act would allow the Secretary of State for Defence – the minister with responsibility for the armed forces, whose conduct will be the subject of the inquiry – significant and wide-ranging powers to impose restrictions on the inquiry if he thinks it is necessary “in the public interest” to do so.

These include the power to set the terms of reference for the inquiry, and to change them during the inquiry; to appoint the chair of the inquiry and, in consultation with the chair, to appoint all the members of the inquiry panel; to bring the inquiry to an end at any point; to impose restrictions on public access to the inquiry hearings, and public disclosure of the evidence considered in the inquiry; and to withhold any material from the final published report of the inquiry.

Amnesty International is worried that any inquiry held under this legislation into an allegation of serious human rights violations may not be independent enough from the government to meet the standards required by international human rights law.

The Antagonist - May 22, 2008 07:57 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
Baha Mousa public inquiry means little
By Joshua Rozenberg

Last updated: 12:39 PM BST 22/05/2008

We can have little grounds for confidence in the public inquiry announced last week into the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian, in British military custody nearly five years ago.

The 26-year-old hotel receptionist was held at a British military prison in Basra following a counter-insurgency operation. “At the base, he was brutally beaten by British troops,” according to Lord Bingham, the senior law lord.

“This was not a case of misjudgement in the heat of battle,” Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, admitted last week. “The Army knows that Mr Baha Mousa should have been treated properly and lawfully. But he was not.”

Cpl Donald Payne, of 2 Bn The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was cleared by a court martial last year of Mr Mousa’s manslaughter. But the soldier admitted inhuman treatment of Iraqi civilians, a war crime, and was jailed for a year.

Because of lack of evidence, all seven defendants at the court martial – including Col Jorge Mendonca, the troops’ CO – were acquitted of all the charges that they had denied.

Meanwhile, a case known as Al-Skeini was working its way up the courts. Relatives of six Iraqis killed by British troops in differing circumstances were challenging the Defence Secretary’s decision not to hold an independent inquiry into their deaths. Of these, Baha Mousa was the only one to have died in military custody.

By the time the case reached the Court of Appeal, the Government had accepted that civilians held in British military detention were entitled to the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights. That meant they could take Britain to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, a right that has been available since 1966.

But ministers were still claiming that the Human Rights Act, passed by Parliament in 1998, did not have “extra-territorial effect” – in other words, that it did not allow claims to be brought in Britain for acts or omissions of British forces abroad.

That argument was accepted last June by Lord Bingham in the House of Lords. In his view, families of those killed in Iraq were not entitled to a full, open and independent inquiry. “There are real practical difficulties in mounting such an inquiry,” he added.

But Lord Bingham was in a minority of one on this. The remaining law lords agreed that claimants were entitled to redress in the English courts.

The law lords left open the question of whether the court martial satisfied the Government’s procedural obligation “to initiate an effective public investigation by an independent public body” into breaches of Article 2, which protects the right to life.

Since the court martial never reached the stage of hearing and testing defence evidence, it is hard to argue that it did satisfy this obligation. Last week, Mr Justice Collins was on the point of making an order that would have set a public inquiry in train. Jumping before it was pushed, the Government announced an inquiry under legislation passed three years ago.

This decision seems to have taken made with some haste, even though it is nearly a year since the law lords’ ruling made it inevitable. Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, could not say who would conduct the inquiry.

I don’t suppose judges and lawyers are queuing up for the job. That is because the notion of an independent judicial inquiry has been killed off by the Inquiries Act 2005.

An inquiry can now be closed down at any time by the minister who set it up. He can restrict public access to an inquiry if this would incur additional cost. It can be suspended pending investigation of other matters to which the inquiry relates.

The inquiry must not go outside its terms of reference, which can be amended by the minister at any time. If it does, the minister can cut off its funding. Its members can be sacked for failing to comply with their duties under the Act – which include not incurring any unnecessary cost.

The minister can withhold publication of the inquiry’s report if he considers that this would be in the public interest.

These Draconian restrictions were rushed through in the hope that they would pave the way for inquiries into alleged collusion by the security forces in the killing of Catholics in Northern Ireland. Needless to say, the Act has had only very limited success in this area. But the genesis of the 2005 Act must have been Lord Saville’s disastrous inquiry into Bloody Sunday.


As I noted here recently, the law lord was appointed more than a decade ago to chair the second inquiry into the events that led British troops to open fire on the streets of Londonderry in 1972.

There is no date for publication of the tribunal’s report – or even an estimate. It is “not imminent”, the Government said this year. It is “several months away, at least”, a spokesman told me last month. The first inquiry, by Lord Widgery, published its report within 11 weeks.

Lord Saville finished taking evidence from all but a handful of witnesses in February 2004 and heard closing speeches in November of that year. He made it clear at the time that he planned to submit his report to the Government in the summer of 2005. It is now running three years late. Lord Saville must have been writing his report for more than four years.

As a judge specialising in commercial cases, Mark Saville was known for getting straight to the point and delivering prompt, pithy judgments. It was bound to take him several months – perhaps as much as a year or two – to marshal what turned out to be a huge amount of evidence relating to Bloody Sunday. But four years – with no end in sight?

Writing here last month, I expressed concern that something might have gone seriously wrong. Last week, I bumped into Lord Saville at a reception. He seemed cheery enough and assured me that there was nothing to worry about. When would his report be published? “Sorry,” he replied, “got to rush off.”

This is just not good enough. Lord Saville has taken up the time of two distinguished Commonwealth judges for far, far longer than their respective countries had been told they would be needed. John Toohey, a former member of Australia’s highest court, has been a member of the tribunal for nearly eight years. William Hoyt, a former chief justice of New Brunswick in Canada, has served for more than 10 years.

True, both are retired. But they would have been able to serve their own judicial systems and to have seen more of their families if they had not been loaned to Lord Saville. Loyally, neither has complained about this extraordinary disruption to their lives.

The Government may see little or no political imperative in completing the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. The cost of keeping it going is negligible compared with its cost so far – officially, £181 million. Lord Saville, 72, is never going to sit again as a judge. The inquiry long ago achieved Tony Blair’s stated aim of achieving “reconciliation” in Northern Ireland.

But what about the families of the 13 people killed and 14 injured on the streets of Londonderry 36 years ago? Should they have had to wait this long to know what happened? And the retired soldiers, accused very publicly of unlawful killing? They agreed unanimously to co-operate fully with this inquiry. Surely they, too, now deserve to hear Lord Saville’s verdict?

Ultimately, a public inquiry is in the hands of one individual. And if he doesn’t act in the way you expect, there is little the Government can do to find out what has gone wrong – except, perhaps, to order another inquiry.


Story from Telegraph News:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics...ans-little.html

The Antagonist - May 25, 2008 12:09 AM (GMT)
Why bother having inquiries into anything? After all, they cost too much:
QUOTE
£1/4bn cost of probes into past
[Published: Friday 23, May 2008 - 13:12]
By Chris Thornton

Inquiries into the past cost taxpayers almost £5m in a single month this year, moving the overall total to almost a quarter of a billion pounds.

The four ongoing public inquiries and the Historic Enquiries Teams which are examining Troubles killings cost a combined total of £4.9m in March, the most recent month for which figures are available.

That brought the overall total to £242,790,000 — indicating that spending is likely to break £250m before the first half of 2008 is out.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, who obtained the spending figures from the Government, said the bills make him question how long taxpayers can afford to pay for re-examinations of the past.

The figures include spending on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry — which has cost £182.4m alone — and the inquiries into the murders of solicitor Rosemary Nelson, LVF leader Billy Wright and Portadown man Robert Hamill.

In February of this year, their combined cost — added in with the bills from the PSNI, Police Ombudsman and Forensic Science service for the Historic Enquiries team — was over £3.5m.

In March, the total climbed to £4.9m. The Wright, Hamill and Nelson inquiries each cost more than £1m that month £ even though Hamill and Nelson had not begun public hearings at that stage.

Mr Campbell said 48 upcoming inquests into security force related killings — including the shoot-to-kill cases — will push the costs higher.

"We're now at £5m a month and it's going to go up," the DUP MP said.

"That's before we get to these 48 controversial inquests which the Chief Constable has described as mini-public inquiries.

"We could be talking in excess of £100m a year for the next couple of years.

"It's coming to the point where we as a society have to ask ourselves, as important as these things are, can we afford them? Can we afford this amount of expenditure month on month?" [Billions for illegal wars is fine, millions for inquiries is a big no-no]

Through the end of March, the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry cost almost £25m. It began hearings in April.

The Billy Wright Inquiry cost just over £21m and has been holding hearings since last year.

The Robert Hamill Inquiry has cost nearly £15m and has yet to begin public hearings. The Government set up the inquiries almost four years ago. They also pledged to hold an inquiry into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, although it was recently revealed that preparations for that tribunal have been halted by the NIO.

The most substantial costs have been associated with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Work by that tribunal has been going on for ten years.

Hearings finished several years ago and the report is expected to be delivered later this year or next year.

Six years ago ministers estimated its final costs would be £100m.

cmain - May 30, 2008 04:46 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
MPs 'should launch own inquiries'

Parliament should be able to bypass ministers and launch its own inquiries into issues of "exceptional" public concern such as the Iraq war, MPs say.

The Commons public administration committee said this should apply where the government was "reluctant" to submit itself to scrutiny.

Currently ministers' permission is needed to initiate an inquiry.

The committee's chairman, Labour's Tony Wright, said it was "up to Parliament to take the initiative".

In their report the MPs noted that, despite the government conceding the eventual need for an inquiry into Iraq, there was no sign of one happening in the foreseeable future.

They called for Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry - made up of senior members of both the Houses of Commons and Lords, and appointed by Parliament rather than the government - to be set up.

These would investigate matters of "exceptional" public concern.

The commissions should have powers to summon witnesses and demand access to official papers and hearings should generally be open to the public, the report added.

Members should be made Privy Councillors to allow them to view secret security and intelligence files, and external members with specialist expertise could be appointed to sit on relevant inquiries.

Mr Wright, MP for Cannock Chase, said: "Parliament should be able to initiate inquiries into serious issues of public concern, such as Iraq - especially in cases where the government is reluctant to set up its own inquiry.

"This is what the public, rightly, expects Parliament to do."

A "sifting mechanism" would be required to ensure Parliament was only asked to vote on the establishment of Commissions of Inquiry on the most important issues, the report said.

It made no recommendation on what that mechanism should be, but suggested the decision to call a vote could be left to the Commons liaison committee - a panel of senior backbenchers which is always dominated by members of the ruling party of the day.

Mr Wright said the commissions "would be a crucial addition to our constitutional arrangements" and "help ensure that Parliament really can hold the executive to account for its actions".

justthefacts - July 7, 2008 09:57 AM (GMT)
QUOTE
Queen creates two new Knights of the Thistle

Honour for Lord Cullen and Sir Garth Morrison

Scottish Staff

Edinburgh The judge who led the inquiries into the Piper Alpha and Dunblane tragedies received the highest public honour in Scotland from the Queen.

Lord Cullen, right, who has retired, was installed as a Knight of the Thistle in a ceremony at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. Joining him was Sir Garth Morrison, Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian, a former chairman of East Lothian NHS Trust and a former Chief Scout of the UK.

The colourful ceremony began with a fanfare by Her Majesty's Household Trumpeters in Scotland to mark the arrival of the Royal guests. The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal joined a procession through the cathedral to the Thistle Chapel - a small chapel founded in 1911 for such ceremonies. Guests at the ceremony included Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and Lord Steel of Aikwood.

The Queen spoke briefly before bestowing the honours on Lord Cullen and Sir Garth, who pledged to be loyal and true to the Queen.

The Order of the Thistle is second only in precedence in Britain to the Order of the Garter. It honours Scottish men and women who have held public office or contributed to public life.

The date of the order's foundation is not known, although it was revived by Queen Anne in 1703.

Source



justthefacts - July 14, 2008 07:43 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
MACDONALD ON MONDAY [7th July 2008]

Twenty years ago yesterday at about 10 o'clock at night the Occidental Petroleum production platform 193km off Aberdeen in the North Sea caught fire and then exploded, in the worst disaster ever to hit Scotland's oil industry.

Later this year, just before Christmas, will be another anniversary of a tragedy in Scotland.

Again, about 10 o'clock at night, on November 21, Pan Am flight 103 crashed into the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew as well as 11 people, whose homes the aircraft demolished.

I covered both of these events at the time and as I look back to two decades ago the main thing which I feel links the two is that the last chapter of the story has never been written.

The people responsible for both events have never had to pay for the carnage they caused.


In the 1980s health and safety offshore came under the remit of the Ministry of Energy in the UK and the government resolutely refused to allow the Health and Safety Executive to have any remit in the North Sea.

Thus the industry by and large had a poor safety record with Occidental's Piper Alpha claiming the worst.

A total of 167 people perished on Piper Alpha, on a platform that was known across the industry to be an accident waiting to happen.

Had the health and safety authorities been allowed to act, it might not have happened.

Occidental also must face the charge that it was extremely negligent when it came to operating the North Sea's most productive platform.

In fact such was Occidental's day-to-day concern for the people on the Piper that when the few, about 60, survivors began landing at Aberdeen heliport, Occidental appeared to remain oblivious to what had happened.

When one man, covered in oil and wrapped in a blanket told the BBC of how he had leapt more than 80 feet into a sea that was on fire, the Occidental Press office was repeating that it was unaware of any incident in the North Sea.

In the wake of the disaster, Lord Cullen held a year-long inquiry and came up with more than 100 recommendations. Health and safety officers were then allowed to carry out offshore inspections.

He was also extremely critical of Occidental, but neither the company nor anyone responsible for safety at the Energy Ministry was ever brought before a court.

The Lockerbie disaster was triggered by a bomb, planted on the plane by terrorists in Malta.

One of my happier memories of covering this awful event was speaking to Press officer from the US Central Intelligence Agency, who, when I first called them assured me they did not know who killed John F Kennedy, even before I asked them.

How did they know I was going to pose this question? All you Limeys ask that, I was told.

At the time, the UK officially did not have a secret service so instead of talking to MI5 or MI6, journalists were left to deal through PC Plod from Glasgow.

Exactly when everyone decided Libya was responsible for this outrage I can't actually remember. Mr Gadaffi seemed to be everybody's whipping boy at the time, so that could explain it.

What I do know is that none of the journalists I worked with on the story ever believed that Libya was guilty. Nor did most of the victims' relatives.

Today only one man has been convicted of being involved in what was the worst airline terrorist attack before 9/11.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed Al Megrahi has been rotting in a Scottish jail since his show trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. He was simply accused of being a Libyan intelligence officer and that was that.

Anyone who knows anything about what happened to Pan Am flight 103 knows that delivering the bomb onto the aircraft was a highly complex operation and it was certainly not carried out by one person.

It was almost certainly not carried out by Libyans either.

But just as the people who were behind the Piper Alpha disaster have never been brought to justice, neither have the people responsible for Lockerbie.

And for some reason I just don't understand, no one is bothering to do anything about this.


ARTHUR MACDONALD



The Antagonist - October 8, 2008 11:13 AM (GMT)
The BMJ in an article that appears to have been published on 9th July 2005:
QUOTE
BMJ  2005;331:117 (9 July), doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7508.117
reviews
PERSONAL VIEW
Are public inquiries losing their independence?

Public inquiries have played an important part in the NHS in recent years. Several major failures in our healthcare services have been subjected to independent, public investigations, and the reports from those inquiries have had a wide ranging impact on health policy ( Health Affairs 2004;23(3): 103-11[Abstract/Free Full Text] and BMJ 2002;325: 895-900[Free Full Text]). Just before the UK elections in May 2005, the Inquiries Act 2005 slipped almost unnoticed on to the statute book. The government presented the act as primarily an exercise in legislative housekeeping—replacing the outdated Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act of 1921 and provisions for inquiries in various sector specific legislation like the NHS Act 1977, with a single, clear, and coherent set of provisions for establishing and undertaking public inquiries.
    The new Inquiries Act gives government ministers unprecedented powers

In reality, the new Inquiries Act gives government ministers unprecedented powers over the initiation, conduct, funding, staffing and direction of public inquiries. Ministers now set up inquiries by order (they used to have to seek a resolution in both Houses of Parliament); ministers appoint the inquiry chair and panel, and can add to or change appointments at any time; ministers write the inquiry terms of reference, and can change those terms of reference at any time; ministers can suspend inquiries, or terminate them early; ministers control inquiry funding and can withhold funding from activities that they consider to be outside the inquiry's terms of reference; ministers can restrict public access to inquiry hearings; and ministers (rather than inquiry chairs) are responsible for publishing inquiry reports and they can withhold parts of those reports from publication.
    user posted image
    Inquiries are likely to be more cautious and narrowly focused

    Credit: PHIL NOBLE/PA/EMPICS

Overall, these changes seem designed to reduce the independence of future public inquiries, and to provide the government with a host of mechanisms for controlling inquiries at every step. This is a considerable departure from past practice, in which the government took the decision to establish an inquiry and set its remit but then played absolutely no part in its subsequent development and progress, which were wholly in the hands of the inquiry chair.

Will this make for better public inquiries? It has been proposed that inquiries have six main purposes—establishing the facts, learning from events, providing catharsis for stakeholders, reassuring the public and rebuilding confidence, making people and organisations accountable, and serving the political interests of government ( Political Quarterly 1999;70(3): 294-304[CrossRef]). It seems that the new Inquiries Act certainly fits that final purpose, but at some cost to the others. It may be more difficult to find senior people with the skills needed to chair public inquiries, given the constraints now placed upon them. Inquiries are likely to be more cautious and narrowly focused affairs, less able to pursue important issues which arise during the inquiry but which are not explicitly part of their original remit. Stakeholders are less likely to trust in the impartiality of inquiries when government ministers are able to influence proceedings from behind the scenes, and so it is less likely that inquiries will produce cathartic exposure and closure for people who were involved or affected.

The most fundamental and important characteristic of public inquiries in the United Kingdom has been their independence. By owing no allegiance to any stakeholder and especially not to the government that sets them up, and by having the freedom to investigate openly and impartially and to report without censorship, inquiries have been able to build consensus and command widespread support for their findings and recommendations. It remains to be seen whether this government, by taking so many new legislative powers to control and direct public inquiries, has stripped them of the independence and impartiality that was so central to their purpose.

Kieran Walshe, professor of health policy and management and director

Centre for Public Policy and Management, Manchester Business School Kieran.Walshe{at}man.ac.uk

We welcome submissions for the personal view section. These should be no more than 850 words and should be sent electronically via our website. For information on how to submit a personal view online, see http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/325/7360/DC1/1




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