Calls For Evidence
Public inquiries are set up to investigate a specific event or topic to establish facts and lessons learned, which are captured in recommendations when they report their findings. A public inquiry cannot decide criminal or civil liability and does not award compensation.
The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is a statutory public inquiry, meaning it is established under the Inquiries Act 2005. It has the power to require witnesses to give evidence on oath and to compel the production of documents.
In August 2022, the Inquiry issued Do Not Destroy letters to 152 organisations and individuals it considered may hold information relevant to the Inquiry’s work. The purpose of these letters was to remind those parties to ensure they retain all information they consider may be relevant to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, across all communications platforms. You can view the text of the letter here.
This was intended to ensure, as far as possible, that, when the Inquiry is gathering information to progress its investigations, the appropriate information can be made available.
Section 21 and Rule 8 orders
The Inquiry has two avenues it can pursue to recover documents and evidence from individuals and organisations. It can serve what is referred to as a “Section 21 notice” under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005, or it can make a request under Rule 8 of the Inquiries (Scotland) Rules 2007.
A Section 21 notice gives the Chair of the Inquiry the power to compel an individual or organisation to hand over documents and evidence to the Inquiry. In contrast, a Rule 8 request is for the voluntary provision of records and evidence.
Retention of documents
Bodies which were involved in the strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland should preserve and retain all documents and records relevant to the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. A full and clear record should be kept so that it is accessible.
If this is not done, and documents are no longer available when called for by the Inquiry, it opens up the possibility of adverse comment and inferences in Inquiry reports. Also, Section 35 of the Inquiries Act 2005 makes it a criminal offence intentionally to suppress, conceal or destroy documents that the Inquiry might wish to be provided with, which is punishable by imprisonment or fines.