Baroness Hallett: who is the chair of the Covid-19 Inquiry?

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Baroness Hallett has presided over a number of high-profile inquests and reviews. Credit: PA

The first hearing into the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic is due to begin on Tuesday.

It will be chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett - who will have the power to demand documents and call witnesses to give evidence on oath.

She has already voiced that authority, after the government rejected a demand from the inquiry to see all of Boris Johnson's relevant documents, despite the former prime minister being happy to provide them.

In a preliminary hearing, she insisted it is she who decides what is relevant to the inquiry and not the Cabinet Office.

So who is the chair of the Covid-19 Inquiry and why has she been chosen?

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks explains what the Covid Inquiry is and breaks down exactly what will be investigated

Who is Baroness Hallett?

Baroness Heather Carol Hallett is a former High Court judge crossbench life peer. She was first called to the Bar in 1972, becoming a QC in 1989.

Baroness Hallett was the first woman to chair the Bar Council in 1998.

She was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2005 and was appointed Vice-President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division in 2013.

In August 2019, Baroness Hallett was appointed to conduct individual fatality investigations assigned to her by the Ministry of Defence. She was then made a Life Peer in September 2019.

Why has she been chosen to chair the Covid-19 Inquiry?

In December 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to the role, following a recommendation made by the Lord Chief Justice.Her appointment followed a number of high-profile and complex inquests, inquiries and reviews.

She acted as coroner for the inquests of the 56 people who died in the 7 July 2005 London bombings.

She also chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations which involved 52 victims, and acted as chair of the 2014 Hallett Review of the administrative scheme to deal with ‘on the runs’ in Northern Ireland.

Her role leading the inquiry was welcomed by First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford who said he was pleased with her appointment.

He said: "I have long argued the importance of this being a Judge-led inquiry and Baroness Hallett has extensive experience of dealing with high profile, sensitive and complex inquiries, including within a devolved context."

In December 2021, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to the role. Credit: PA

Can the public contribute to the Covid-19 inquiry?

To assist Baroness Hallett with the inquiry and learn lessons for the future, people are being urged to share their experiences from across the UK.

Baroness Hallett said: “The pandemic affected every single person in the UK and, in many cases, continues to have a lasting impact on lives. Yet every experience is unique.

“By sharing the personal impact the pandemic had on you, your life and your loved ones, you can help me and the inquiry’s legal team to shape my recommendations so that the UK is better prepared in the future.

“The scale of the pandemic was unprecedented, but no-one’s story is the same as yours, so please help me understand the full picture by sharing your story. Every single story will matter.”

The inquiry said the stories will give evidence of the human impact of the pandemic on the UK population, by allowing an opportunity for those affected to share their experiences “without the formality of giving evidence or attending a public hearing".