While a public inquiry will often be judged on how promptly it starts preliminary hearings and calls witnesses, it is suggested that the start date should not be premature. By front-loading difficult yet foreseeable issues, the most costly part of the inquiry costs of lawyers, IT, buildings, and logistics - may be deferred until all preliminary matters are resolved. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry for example, could be said to have started too soon. With over 30,000 potential witnesses taking part in the march, the preliminary tasks were huge. The Inquiry was announced in 1998 and oral hearings commenced in 2000. The opening speech was necessarily revised every evening to reflect the volumes of new evidence coming in.

Before an Inquiry Panel can start hearing or seeing evidence, a number of tasks should be undertaken. These include:

  • A review of all the documents available

  • Offering witnesses the opportunity to claim anonymity

  • Interviewing relevant witnesses

  • Preparing bundles for core participants and witnesses

  • Preparing the documents for publication, which may involve redaction

  • Preparing statements

  • Compelling evidence, including the attendance of witnesses

  • Determining the extent of public access to documents

This section offers practical and legal guidance for the inquiry team.