1. What is the aim of the Inquiry?
- There is often a strong feeling, particularly following high-profile controversial events, that an independent public inquiry should ascertain what happened and why, and identify what can be done to prevent such an event happening again.
- The aim of the Inquiry is to establish the facts and circumstances that led to the explosion, to establish how it occurred on the day, and to make recommendations seeking to prevent a recurrence of any similar event.
- While criticisms may be made of individuals or organisations, it is not the role or function of an inquiry to ascertain liability, responsibility or ascribe blame or to punish any one or to award compensation or damages. Inquiries are not courts.
- The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are:
- To inquire into the circumstances leading up to the incident on 11 May 2004 at the premises occupied by the ICL group of companies, Grovepark Mills, Maryhill, Glasgow.
- To consider the safety issues arising from such an inquiry, including the regulation of the activities at Grovepark Mills.
- To make recommendations in the light of the lessons identified from the causation and circumstances leading up to the incident.
- To report as soon as practicable.
2. What is the nature of this Public Inquiry?
- Public Inquiries can take different forms. This Inquiry is under the Inquiries Act 2005. The Inquiry is an inquisitorial process, not adversarial.
- There are no “parties”. Those concerned in the process are not entitled, as of right, to cross examine or investigate information. They may only do so in limited circumstances as prescribed for by the statutory rules and at the discretion of the Chairman.
- It is for the Chairman to examine the information and satisfy himself as to the factual circumstances sufficient to inform his recommendations and conclusions. Any information from, or findings by, an Inquiry are not admissible in evidence in court proceedings unless the rules and processes of those court proceedings are satisfied.
- The Inquiry is inquisitorial in order to enable the matters giving rise to concern to be examined independently for specific purposes prescribed by its terms of reference, within a reasonable timescale, and without the burden adversarial examination imposes on both time taken and the public purse. Adversarial examination in the United Kingdom is reserved to the proper courts for the determination of the rights and the liabilities of individuals and persons and any award of damages or compensation.
3. Who are Core Participants?
- A Core Participant is usually someone who played or may have played a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or who has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or who may be subject to significant or explicit criticism during the proceedings at the Inquiry, or in the report (or any interim) report to be delivered to Ministers.
- A Core Participant is not necessarily a Core Participant for the entirety of the Inquiry.
- The Chairman has admitted ICL, HSE, Calor Gas, J Gas and on each of the individuals who suffered injury in the disaster, and the immediate next of kin of those who died in it, who have applied. In relation to the next of kin the Chairman has decided that there should be one appropriate representative e.g. the surviving spouse, eldest child, one or other parent failing which, the nearest relative.
- The Chairman does not consider it necessary for a Core Participant who has been bereaved or who is an injured survivor to have legal representation and several have chosen to represent themselves. There are no rights to be decided and no issue as to compensations or damages can be addressed. They are receiving the assistance of the Inquiry Secretariat and any questions they may raise, and which the Chairman decides to allow orally, will be asked of witnesses for them by Junior Counsel to the Inquiry.
4. What is the role of the legal adviser for a Core Participant?
- The role of solicitors and counsel engaged on behalf of Core Participants is to assist their Core Participant clients to assist the Inquiry, usually in respect of issues which will directly affect them, either operationally or commercially, in respect of lessons which may be identified or recommendations that might be made. None of the considerations that apply in judicial proceedings apply.
5. What is the statutory basis for this Public Inquiry?
- This is the first joint public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 and it has been established by the Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It is subject to the Inquiries ( Scotland ) Rules 2007. Its setting up date is 21 January 2008.
- The Inquiries Act is intended to provide a comprehensive statutory framework for Inquiries set up by Ministers to look into matters of public concern. The Act applies throughout the UK .
- The Inquiry has been established jointly by the Scottish Government and the Department of Work and Pensions because it is likely to focus on health and safety issues relating to the supply, management and use of LPG in small installations. Health and Safety is reserved to the UK Government.
6. What power will the Inquiry have?
- The purpose of the Inquiry is to establish the circumstances which led up to the explosion, to consider the lessons to be learned, and to make recommendations in order to prevent, so far as is possible, such an incident ever happening in the future.
- The Inquiry is to establish the facts so far is necessary to fulfil the Chairman’s Terms of Reference, not to apportion blame and it has no power to determine any person’s civil or criminal liability. It cannot award compensation or damages. These are matters for the proper courts.
- However, the Inquiries Act 2005 makes clear that inquiries should not be hampered in their investigations by a fear that liability may be inferred from a determination of fact.
- Therefore, given the special nature of the proceedings, the fact finding process will be approached in a different way from that experienced in the normal courtroom setting.
- The Chairman of a public inquiry may accept for the purposes of their Inquiry any fact as having been proven. It is not necessary for any fact to be proven to any standard that may be required in the civil and criminal courts. There are no rules of evidence.
7. What format will the Inquiry take?
- The Chairman has been very open in inviting applications and representations to assist him in his approach.
- The Chairman invited applications to participate as Core Participants and those the Chairman considered appropriate to admit, were admitted.
- The Chairman issued invitations to Core Participants to submit statements of case, stating what issues they wished the Inquiry to address having regard to the Terms of Reference, what aspects of the circumstances leading to the explosion they wished to explore and the topics in which they wished to participate, what they would wish to seek to establish and setting out how each topic would assist the Chairman in fulfilling his Terms of Reference. These statements stand in place of opening statements and have been published on the web site. It remains entirely a matter for the Chairman’s discretion as to the extent to which he permits these to inform his approach and his interpretation of his Terms of Reference.
- A similar invitation was issued to interested persons.
- The Chairman has made it clear that those individuals who were bereaved, or who were injured and survived, may come forward to the Inquiry Secretariat at any time with any questions they may have, or which they consider should be asked, or which they consider should have been asked of a witness. Where they have legal representation at public expense, the legal representative will apply in respect of any such questions. Where they are self-represented the Inquiry Secretariat is ready to assist them.
- The Chairman has made it clear publicly that he is prepared to consider questions from any interested person.
- The Chairman, in advance of the public hearings has disclosed to Core Participants, subject to undertakings as to confidentiality, the Inquiry statements and bundle to enable the Core Participants to submit any applications they may wish to make to raise questions with witnesses.
- The decision as to which questions are to be allowed rests with the Chairman, having regard to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.
- It is likely the Chairman will invite further participation from Core Participants, and in particular from those who may be affected commercially or operationally by any recommendations that might be made.