Judging crisis in the UK: the hybrid formula of public inquiries

The UK has a specific way of judging crises: public inquiries are set up in case of existence of “public concern”, in addition to or sometimes instead of judicial investigations.

Contrary to other European countries, there is no specific legal responsibility for members of government in the UK, and during the pandemic, ordinary judges have exercised self-restraint vis-à-vis the executive power. Public inquiries are considered a more adapted way of judging public officials’ decisions in times of crisis, while at the same time avoiding the difficulties of evaluating political action outside of Parliament in terms of separation of powers.

Recently, two public inquiries have been initiated to respond to the political scandal “Partygate” and the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those two inquiries will be used as examples to introduce a framework for hybrid mechanisms of judging crisis, between law and politics, as public inquiries draw characters from both domains.