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Reflections on public inquiries

Public Inquiries are often hard fought for and open with high expectations.  They are supposed to be an inquisitorial search for the objective truth, presided over by an authoritative, independent figure. They invariably adjudicate over the interests and actions of the State and the powerful on the one hand, and the rights of citizens, often victims, on the other. They often disappoint.

This summer the Undercover Police Inquiry will have been up and running for 5 years. It was supposed to have concluded by now – the truth exposed, the report written, recommendations made and lessons learned and maybe even implemented. Instead, it is yet to hear any oral evidence and no date for the conclusion to the Inquiry is in sight.

Activists, victims of the last 50 years’ undercover policing, did all they could to expose undercover police, their alleged misconduct and the role of those responsible for them. These campaigners’ efforts were the catalyst for the establishment of the inquiry. But they have been placed at the periphery of the Inquiry and watched time pass, costs rise, evidence disappear, witnesses die, opportunities squandered.

In this article first published in the New Law Journal on 5th June 2020, Mike Schwarz gives his personal views on the Inquiry.

Mike Schwarz has represented political activists for 30 years and represents 100 of those who are ‘core participants’ in the Inquiry’. He is a Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen. His practise covers inquiries, civil liberties, criminal defence and related areas.