Protocol on the role of the assessors
1. The purpose of this protocol is to explain the role of an assessor appointed pursuant to section 11 of the Inquiries Act 2005 (“the 2005 Act”) and to provide guidance to assessors in fulfilling that role. It also refers to the powers of the Chair in relation to the appointment of assessors as may be appropriate during the course of the Inquiry.
Role of Assessors
2. Section 11(2)(b) of the Inquiries Act 2005 gives the Chair the power to appoint people to act as assessors to assist the Inquiry. Before appointing a person to act in that capacity, the Chair must be satisfied that he or she has the expertise necessary to provide the particular assistance required. Their role begins as soon as they are appointed.
3. An assessor’s function is to provide advice to the Chair. They are expected to familiarise themselves with the Terms of Reference and the areas that the Inquiry will seek to investigate (if they have not already done so) and to prepare themselves in advance of the hearings to understand the evidence that will be before the Inquiry, bearing on their particular areas of expertise. That is likely to involve reading relevant documents and witness statements. They may also be asked to advise the Chair in advance of the hearing on matters such as potential avenues of Inquiry, presentation of the Inquiry’s work, and steps to be taken in preparation for hearings.
4. Assessors will normally be expected to attend hearings when evidence is being taken in relation to matters within the scope of their expertise. When that is not possible, however, they will be expected to familiarise themselves with the proceedings from the transcripts.
5. Assessors are not expected to ask questions of witnesses, but before a witness is called, they may suggest lines of questioning to Counsel to the Inquiry, on matters falling within their expertise.
6. The Chair may ask an assessor to give him any other assistance, or advice, in relation to any matter relevant to the Inquiry within the scope of his or her expertise.
7. The Chair expects that most advice and assistance will be given informally. However, if he obtains formal advice in writing from an assessor appointed under section 11(2)(b) of the 2005 Act which he intends to take into account in forming conclusions, he will provide a copy to the Core Participants, and publish it on the Inquiry’s website, unless he considers that it would be inappropriate to do so. The Core Participants may submit observations about the advice to the Inquiry within 7 calendar days of receipt, unless the Chair specifies some different period of time for such observations.
8. No assessor may give evidence to the Inquiry, and no assessor will be asked questions, or be cross-examined during the Inquiry.
9. Although the Chair may receive advice from the assessors, the findings of fact and any recommendations made in the report to the Minister are matters for the Chair’s determination alone.
Appointment of Assessors
10. Solirius Consulting Limited were appointed as independent advisers to the Inquiry before its conversion to a statutory inquiry on 1 June 2021. The Chair is minded to appoint David Page, of Solirius Consulting Limited, as an assessor in relation to digital product management, IT strategy for large and complex technical projects, usability, and associated business processes, as it appears to him that he has the expertise that makes him a suitable person to provide such assistance.
11. Core Participants or persons or organisations whose applications for such status is unresolved may submit representations on this proposed appointment to the Inquiry, no later than 11 August 2021 by email to Solicitor@postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk or by post to PO Box: PO Horizon IT Inquiry, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET.
12. If the Chair requires further assistance in relation to the whole, or any part of the Inquiry, he may appoint additional assessors at any time. A person will only be appointed as an assessor if it appears to the Chair that (i) he or she has the expertise that makes him or her a suitable person to provide such assistance, and (ii) has not previously been concerned in the issues arising from the Horizon IT system, or the prosecution, litigation, and settlements arising from it.
Issued under the authority of the Chair on 28 July 2021.