One of the UK’s most senior legal experts, who was at the helm of the much-publicised Hillsborough inquests, is calling for a Public Inquiry into how the Government has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
Elkan Abrahamson, Director and Head of Major Inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, is lobbying for immediate steps to be taken to hold government officials to account regarding some of the 40,000 or more deaths caused by Covid-19.
Elkan, who has represented those impacted by some of the UK’s most catastrophic incidents, including the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, is already assisting a number of bereaved families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 and says a Public Inquiry with an immediate launch is essential for the purpose of gathering and sharing evidence to fight for justice.
He highlighted growing concerns around the transparency of some decisions, emphasising the need for a framework to be put in place now. He believes this will ensure decision makers are held to account based on a robust record of events, not quickly fading memories.
Elkan said: “As someone who has been profoundly involved in a number of cases where the powerful have tried to hide their mistakes, I’m becoming increasingly concerned by the Government’s apparent failure to accept responsibility for at least some of the 40,000 or more deaths caused to date by coronavirus.
“The latest grim calculation being made by the Government appears to be about getting the economy moving again, accepting that this will cause more deaths but saying, in effect, that as long as there aren’t too many more, then that’s fine.
“There are already worrying signs that we are heading for another state cover-up, in that we are not seeing a full and transparent presentation of the facts surrounding some decisions. For example, the Coronavirus Act abolished the need for juries at inquests into Covid-19 related deaths, with coroners being reminded that Covid-19 fatalities are ‘deaths by natural causes’ and, therefore, an inquest may not be necessary.
“In addition, coroners were told that, if they did hold such inquests, they should not look into government policy issues such as the failure to provide PPE.
“Of course, this means it could be much more difficult to hold our leaders to account for the steps they are taking. It’s therefore imperative to start a Public Inquiry now, both to allow for information to be gathered and to ensure the life and death decisions currently being taken by the Government are scrutinised.
“The Government will then be compelled to make all the advice they claim to be relying on publicly available so we can judge for ourselves why they are taking the current action, ensuring we not relying on faded memories of such decisions.”
It is hoped that by opening an inquiry as soon as possible, those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 will have their questions addressed, such as issues surrounding lack of PPE equipment for frontline workers and lack of widespread testing for the virus.
Elkan added: “We need to record the facts now – the chair of the inquiry should ensure that all relevant documents are maintained so that people will not be able to use the excuse that they have forgotten events.
“This approach will give the bereaved a forum to voice their concerns now, not in years to come when it’s too late to have effective change.
“Let’s implement the lessons we’ve learnt from other national tragedies so we can hold our heads high, knowing whether or not the Government have dealt with this appropriately, considering the life and death decisions that are being made now hour by hour.”