17 Mar 2020
The Undercover Policing Inquiry’s first evidence hearings were expected to start in June 2020. Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recent government advice, the Inquiry has today taken the decision to postpone the hearings.
These first evidence hearings focus on officers and managers active in the Special Demonstration Squad between 1968 and 1982 and those affected by the officers’ deployments.
Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting, said:
“The Inquiry has considered whether, in light of the government advice issued yesterday afternoon in relation to coronavirus and in particular on social distancing, it remains possible to start the evidence hearings on 1 June 2020. It is with much regret that it has decided that this date cannot be maintained. The majority of proposed witnesses from whom the Inquiry would expect to hear at that time are in the group identified as being subject to increased risk from infection, and the necessary preparation for and attendance at a hearing venue (even were evidence to be provided remotely) would expose them to an unacceptable threat of infection. Furthermore, preparation for the hearing would require sustained work on the part of the Inquiry and both state and non-state core participants, at a time when all of those are subject to advisory restriction on movement, and otherwise subject to the risk of infection.
We have therefore determined that to start the public hearings at the beginning of June would be against the spirit of the current government guidance, and the wider preservation of public health.
The Inquiry Team will in the meantime continue its investigative work at such pace as it can, given the impact of the current position and guidance on its own and its stakeholders’ teams. This work will take place alongside finalising preparation for the first evidence hearing, so that this can start in September 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter, without any delay. As the situation develops, we will keep the position under continual review, and will update core participants and those interested in the Inquiry whenever the position changes.”
UPDATE 4 May 2020: Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23 March, the Inquiry temporarily closed its office and asked staff to work from home until further notice. After a detailed risk assessment and the introduction of stringent measures to ensure staff safety and continued compliance with government guidance, the Inquiry is allowing a few staff members, who do need to attend the office to progress their work, to return, voluntarily, to the office from Monday 4 May. You can still contact the Inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further updates will be provided in due course.