In my last statement in December 2021 I promised to post updates as the Inquiry progresses.
The Inquiry is now in occupation of its office accommodation at Bradford Court in Belfast, and works have been carried out to make our hearing chamber suitable. I indicated previously that I hoped to hear from patients and families this spring. There is however, some further work to be done and logistical arrangements to be made before that can happen. The Inquiry’s investigations have led me to write to a further 62 patients and families affected by treatment received in the Urology Department in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (the Trust). As a result, the Inquiry plans to start hearing from families and patients from mid-June onwards.
This first stage of the Inquiry will not require formal opening by Counsel. The process of obtaining evidence from patients and families will be less formal than later proceedings. The public will not have access to these sittings of the Inquiry, although the core participants will be represented and transcripts of evidence will subsequently be posted onto the Inquiry website, suitably redacted to protect each patient’s identity.
The Inquiry continues to issue Notices under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 seeking documents and written evidence. The entire Inquiry team is working hard to allow us to formally open the Inquiry and to commence hearings of witnesses other than the patients and families. I would like to inform core participants and the public that I have provisionally scheduled the formal opening of the Inquiry for the week of 7 November 2022.
While I recognise that there needs to be a degree of flexibility regarding the actual dates the Inquiry sits and that unforeseen issues may arise, I intend that the Inquiry will sit three days per week in two week blocks, followed by a week when we do not sit in order to allow the legal team to prepare fully for the next witnesses.
In due course the Inquiry will post details of sitting dates and times as well as who will be giving evidence. In place of the name of the witness who is to be heard at a sitting, patients or family members will be referred to simply by the designation they have been given by the Inquiry. Core participants and witnesses will receive notice of whom we will hear from in good time and the timetable will be posted on the Inquiry website once dates are confirmed.
In the meantime I would, once again, ask anyone who considers that they have been impacted to contact the Inquiry directly.