Statement of Chair regarding progress update and dates of future hearings
- On 13 July 2022, at the end of the oral hearings addressing issues of compensation, I said that I would consider whether to issue a progress update or an interim report in respect of the submissions that had been made on behalf of Core Participants.
- Having reflected on those helpful and detailed submissions I have decided that I will, in the first instance, issue a progress update. I have decided to proceed in this way since that will allow me to publish the update as soon as it is completed. However, my update will be written in such a way that I can issue it as a formal interim report pursuant to section 24(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 should I consider that to be an appropriate step. For the avoidance of any doubt, the update will contain my conclusions upon the issues which were the subject of debate in written and oral submissions, insofar as that is possible at this stage. It will also contain a number of indications as to how I would expect relevant public authorities to act in response to my conclusions. This will mean that Core Participants will have the opportunity to reflect upon the contents of the progress update and act appropriately before being faced by a formal interim report with recommendations which is laid before Parliament. I should add for completeness that I am satisfied that there is no legal reason why I should not proceed in this way.
- I have also been giving further thought to the next Phase of the Inquiry, Phase 2, which will address issues of procurement, design, pilot, roll out and modifications of the Horizon system. The Inquiry’s legal team has sent out more than 50 requests for witness statements relating to this Phase and has disclosed more than 3,000 underlying documents to Core Participants.
- There is a great deal of information that will need to be carefully considered by Core Participants and by my legal team before we can commence this next Phase. In light of the volume of materials and the timing of disclosure, I have decided to provide everyone with a short further period in which to prepare.
- I have also sent out a request to the Recognised Legal Representatives to establish how long they anticipate they will be in making their opening statements. I am reassured to hear that the opening statements are likely to be significantly shorter than the Inquiry first anticipated. This means that the hearings can be put back slightly without any significant impact on the overall timetable of the Inquiry.
- In light of the above, I have decided that opening statements by Counsel to the Inquiry and on behalf of Core Participants (addressing all phases of the Inquiry) will now begin in the week commencing 10 October 2022. Written statements on behalf of Core Participants should be filed one week in advance. The opening statements will be followed by introductory evidence from the Inquiry’s expert, Mr Charles Cipione, who will introduce to the public for the first time in this Inquiry what the Horizon system involves on a technical level. Oral evidence from a wide range of witnesses, from ICL, Fujitsu, the Post Office, the National Federation of Sub Postmasters and Government (both former and present employees, officials and office holders) will follow thereafter. The Inquiry will sit until 16 December 2022 and will resume again in early 2023. Further details as to the order and identity of these witnesses will follow in due course.
Sir Wyn Williams
29 July 2022