On Tuesday 28th June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the official launch of the Covid Inquiry, two whole years after the relentless campaign, championed by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, first began.
The Prime Minister first appointed Baroness Heather Hallett as the Chair of the statutory Covid Inquiry back in December, who then embarked on a month-long consultation process to gain insight into the bereaved families’ experiences, before setting out her recommendations for the Terms of Reference.
Johnson announced in his statement yesterday that he is “happy to accept [the Chair’s] changes in full, subject only to a small number of clarificatory amendments put forward by the devolved administrations and agreed with Baroness Hallett.”
The delay in the launch of the campaign is nothing short of disappointing, however we are relieved that the Terms of Reference have been accepted in full and we can now begin to gather evidence ahead of the planned evidence hearing stage, set to begin in Spring 2023.
The launch comes shortly after a threat from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group of a Judicial Review against the Prime Minister after he failed to meet the Spring 2022 setting up date deadline that he himself set in early 2021.
Hannah Brady, spokesperson for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign said:
After over two years of campaigning yesterday was a special day for thousands of bereaved families from all corners of the country. Finally, we can begin the process of learning lessons from the awful suffering we’ve endured to that we can move forward with our lives and protect others in the future.
However, it is pitiful that after six months of inexplicable delays, the Government has finally decided to act just two days after we announced that we were considering a judicial review over their time wasting. It goes to show that they were simply delaying the process for as long as they could get away with, and there are going to have to be serious consequences if valuable evidence has been lost as a result.
Baroness Hallett is now going to have to get the process moving as quickly as possible so that lessons can be learned ahead of future waves. We look forward to working closely with her to make sure that bereaved families are at the heart of this inquiry, and that our awful experiences are learned from as much as possible in order to protect lives in the future.
Head of Major Inquests & Inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, and the Solicitor leading the legal team representing the Bereaved Families group, Elkan Abrahamson, said:
I am relieved that this has finally started the process towards an Inquiry, albeit very late for the thousands of bereaved families waiting for this day. It is unfortunate that we had to threaten a Judicial Review for the Prime Minister to do anything about it.
We will now be discussing with the Inquiry how we can achieve some form of justice for all of those who tragically lost their lives. We welcome Baroness Hallett’s commitment to getting things moving ‘at speed and in earnest’.
If you’ve lost a loved one to Covid, it isn’t too late to join the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group and be part of this Inquiry. We are fighting for core participation status and striving to ensure that the bereaved families will be at the heart of this Inquiry, where they belong.