Leslie Thomas QC appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Unreliable Evidence’ programme yesterday evening alongside Anthony Peter Clarke, Baron Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony PC QC, and Cathryn McGahey QC.
The show, presented by Clive Anderson, focused on ‘Public Inquiries’ and addressed questions of what makes a good public inquiry, how they can be improved and the success or lack thereof of the Inquiries Act 2005.
In Leslie’s view, a good inquiry is one where the terms of reference are relevant and sufficiently flexible. In addition, the appointment of the chair and the panel is extremely important because choosing the wrong people can lead to the public losing all confidence in the inquiry. During the show, Clive Anderson played a clip of Leslie addressing Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who is leading the Grenfell Inquiry. In it, Leslie draws attention to the lack of diversity in the panel suggesting that it could “affect confidence and affect justice”.
“In all walks of life now we have transparent selection processes which are aimed at encouraging diversity”, he says. Although he recognises that there are only going to be a few competent people who are able to sit on the panel in any inquiry, he suggests that there should be a stipulation, within the Inquiries Act, to require more transparency in this respect. “It’s very much left to the discretion of the minister”, he explains. “There isn’t this injection of impartiality with diversification and I think that’s important.”
The full programme is available online.
Leslie Thomas QC is Joint Head of Chambers. He specialises in Inquests and Inquiries, and Claims Against the Police and Public Authorities, and is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties and Human Rights Team.