The Inquiries Act 2005 and The Inquiries Rules 2006 enable a Minister to appoint members for a public Inquiry into matters of public concern. The legislation provides for some of the procedures, but the Chairman of such Inquiries will have discretion conduct the Inquiry in the way best suited to the subject matter.

There have been Inquiries into several controversial events in the last few years: for example public transport accidents causing death, “Bloody Sunday” by Lord Saville of Newdigate, and the death in Irag of Baha Mousa (Read More Here)  These Inquiries are not trials, and do not have adversary-type confrontation with which English lawyers are familiar in the

criminal and civil trials of our country. The Chairman decides what witnesses are to be called, to what matters their evidence will be directed. There is limited legal light to cross-examination by interested parties.

Generally the hearing of evidence should be in public. There are arrangements for people directly affected to have a lawyer appointed, and (subject to financial means) the lawyer paid out of public funds; however these decisions are made by the Inquiry Chairman.

In the interest of witnesses being able to speak freely, undertakings are often given by the Attorney General not to prosecute witnesses on the basis of their evidence at Inquiries: but this process appears not to be aopted by the Leveson Inquiry

The Leveson Inquiry into “into culture, practices and ethics of UK media” is effectively televised, with evidence sessions broadcast live (and available for replay), transcripts and witness statements made available on the internet.  (Read More Here) The street-savvy Lord Justice Leveson gives every appearance of giving the parties a fair chance to advance their case, but tolerates little nonsense from the lawyers; he would appear to have had private consultations with the police officer currently involved (6th February 2012 morning, page 3) and says he is taking trouble not to prejudice ongoing police investigations.

The Government does not have to follow any recommendations made by the Inquiry