Requirements for the hearing venue


The primary function of a public inquiry is to hear and to determine the evidence relevant to its terms of reference and to be seen to be doing so. The public and the Press must therefore be given access to the hearings. Plainly, the facilities required for that will vary according to the nature of the public inquiry. However, the chamber will need the capacity and, if paperless, the monitors to enable the public to attend and see what is happening. The Press will need a room with internet and telephone facilities and ideally which has a video feed from the chamber.

Screening and security

If it is necessary to screen witnesses from public view then either part of the chamber will be screened off or when hearing the evidence of those witnesses the chamber will be closed to the public. In that event there should be another room with an audio feed capable of holding those who wish to attend.

Some public inquiries may face serious security issues, either because feelings are running so high that witnesses may be attacked or because witnesses are members of the security services whose operational effectiveness could be prejudiced if they are seen in the vicinity of the hearing centre. Provision may therefore need to be made for getting witnesses in and out of the building clandestinely. Ideally there should be an entrance through which witnesses can arrive and leave in a car without being seen. There may also need to be a ban on mobile phones and other recording devices. It may be necessary to have armed police guards.