Press Notice .

Background information for journalists
12th January 2009

This briefing note contains background information on the Robert Hamill Inquiry for use by journalists. If you are a journalist and require any further information, please contact the Inquiry's press officer, Liz Fawcett, on +44 (0) 28 9020 0811 or +44 (0) 771 943 5662. Further information is also available on the Inquiry's website:

On 16 November 2004 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy, announced the terms of reference for the Inquiry into the death of Robert Hamill following an incident in Portadown, County Armagh on 27 April 1997. The Inquiry was set up following a recommendation by a retired Canadian judge, Justice Peter Cory, who was asked to examine a number of deaths which had occurred in Northern Ireland. Justice Cory recommended that, in each instance, a public inquiry should be held. To date, the government has also set up public inquiries into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright, as well as the death of Robert Hamill.

The Robert Hamill Inquiry was established under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 and has now been converted to operate under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005.

The Attorney General has provided an undertaking that any evidence given by a witness before the Robert Hamill Inquiry will not be used in evidence against him or her in any criminal proceedings, except in proceedings where he or she is charged with having given false evidence in the course of the Inquiry or conspiring with or procuring others to do so.

What are the Inquiry's terms of reference?

The Inquiry's terms of reference are:

To inquire into the death of Robert Hamill with a view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary facilitated his death or obstructed the investigation of it, or whether attempts were made to do so; whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of his death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.

The Hamill family were concerned that the terms of reference did not specifically include the role of the former office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for Northern Ireland. They wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, to request an extension of the terms of reference to cover the DPP's role. When the Secretary of State refused this request, the family successfully applied for a judicial review of his decision. On 1st July 2008, in the Northern Ireland High Court, Mr Justice Weatherup delivered his judgement in respect of that judicial review. He accepted the family's argument that the Secretary of State had applied the wrong legal test in reaching his decision, and asked him to reconsider that decision.

On 5th November 2008, the Secretary of State announced that, having again considered the matter, he was not prepared to extend the existing terms of reference. However, he did clarify his view on the scope of the Inquiry's remit by stating that the existing terms of reference enabled the Inquiry to "examine the actions of the DPP and his staff in relation to the investigation of Robert Hamill's death."

In a letter to the Hamill family and the Inquiry, the Secretary of State further clarified that, insofar as the RUC's investigation was shaped by the prosecutorial decisions of the DPP, those decisions could be examined by the Inquiry, although he did not feel it was necessary for the Inquiry to reach conclusions on the merits of such decisions.

Who is carrying out the Inquiry?

The members of the Inquiry Panel are:

Sir Edwin Jowitt (Chairman)
who was a Justice of the High Court, Queen's Bench Division, from 1988 to 2000.  During part of this period he served as a Presiding Judge of the Midland and Oxford Circuit.  Before this he had been a Recorder of the Crown Court, a Circuit Judge and then a Senior Circuit Judge and the Honorary Recorder of Birmingham.

Reverend Baroness (Kathleen) Richardson of Calow
is currently the Moderator of the Churches' Commission for Inter Faith Relations.  She was the Moderator of the Free Churches' Council of England & Wales and the President of Churches Together in England between 1995 and 1999.  She was previously the President of the Methodist Conference and the Chairwoman of West Yorkshire District from 1987.  Before this she was a Methodist minister in Denby Dale and Clayton West Circuit.

Sir John Evans
currently advises the Football Association and others on security matters.  He was Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary between 1989 and 2002, during which time he was also President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.  Before that, he was Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey, and Assistant Chief Constable in the Greater Manchester Police. He began his service on Merseyside.  In addition to his consultancy work, he is currently involved in a number of committees and schemes, including being President of both the Devon and Cornwall Victims Support Schemes.

The Inquiry consists of a small and dedicated team of lawyers and administrative staff. It is currently based in London, but will move to Belfast for the duration of the Public Hearings.

Leading Counsel to the Inquiry is Ashley Underwood QC.

The Inquiry Solicitor and Secretary is Judi Kemish.

What has happened so far?

The Inquiry formally opened with an initial hearing in Craigavon on 24th May 2005 at which the Inquiry Chairman outlined the terms of reference and explained how the Inquiry would operate. The Chairman restated the Secretary of State's view that

"It is essential that all people in Northern Ireland can have confidence in the integrity of the state and its institutions. Where there are serious allegations of wrongdoing it is important that the facts are properly established. It is important that we find a way in Northern Ireland of dealing with the past in the way that recognises the pain associated with it without allowing it to destroy all hope of a better future."

To date, the Inquiry team has:

  1. collated and reviewed over twenty thousand documents
  2. conducted in-house interviews of more than 230 witnesses and drafted witness statements from these interviews
  3. requested further documents from a large number of organisations and pursued numerous lines of Inquiry
  4. compiled a bundle of documents relevant to the terms of reference
  5. considered anonymity and Public Interest Immunity applications and redacted the documents accordingly
  6. instructed independent medical experts
  7. instructed an independent police expert
  8. commissioned the building, for use at the full hearings, of a computer-generated 3D model of the scene of the incident which will enable the Inquiry panel and those attending the Inquiry hearings to obtain a 'virtual reality' view of the scene from any direction or viewpoint
  9. compiled a detailed chronological Timeline setting out the key events in the investigation

The Inquiry will be asking approximately 160 of the witnesses it has interviewed to give evidence in person at the Inquiry's public hearings.


When will the Inquiry's public hearings start and how will they be conducted?

The Inquiry will be commencing its public hearings on 13th January 2009.

The public hearings will take place in at the Interpoint Centre in York Street, Central Belfast. Evidence will primarily be led by Counsel to the Inquiry and the Chairman may at his discretion permit questioning by others

Transcripts of the public hearings will be published on the Inquiry's website. The Inquiry is committed to ensuring that the Inquiry is open and transparent in its proceedings.

Following the public hearings, there will be a period for written submissions and then final oral submissions. The Inquiry Panel intends to write its report as soon as possible after the submissions have been made.



A number of witnesses applied to be made anonymous in all Inquiry proceedings. The test applied by the Inquiry panel in deciding whether or not to grant the applications of a number of serving and retired police officers was approved of by the House of Lords in the case of Re Officer L (NI) 2007.

Updated 7th January 2009


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