Determining the need for an inquiry
Naturally, the categories of events that may lead to the establishment of a public inquiry are not closed. Historically they have ranged from events which suggest a breakdown in the rule of law, such as the Scott Inquiry, through those which have caused a single death, such as the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, to matters that concern numerous deaths, such as the Shipman Inquiry or the Marchionness-Bowbell Inquiry. The common factor in every public inquiry is the pressing public concern that something has happened that must be investigated openly and fairly by a body that is independent of the problem.
Certain characteristics can be identified in those public inquiries that have taken place:
- Widespread loss of life
- Threats to public health or safety
- Failure by the state in its duty to protect
- Failure in regulation
- Shocking events