Q: When was the Inquiry set up?

The inquiry was announced by the Home Secretary in a Written Ministerial Statement on 22 July 2014 and the formal set-up date for the purposes of section 5 of the Inquiries Act 2005 was 31 July 2014.

Q: Why has the decision been taken to have an Inquiry?

In his statement opening the Inquiry (PDF) on 31 July 2014 Sir Robert Owen said:

“The most important feature of the inquiry and the reason why I ask that it be established is that it will permit me to consider closed evidence and hold closed hearings. That is hearings from which the public, the press and most of the core participants are excluded. Such hearings are of course highly exceptional and rightly so.

“As I have previously mentioned it is not possible to hold such hearings at all during an inquest. The reason why it is of great importance to be able to hold at least some such hearings in this case is that HM Government holds some documents that are relevant to Mr Litvinenko’s death, but which are of such sensitivity that they cannot be used in open court. Had these proceedings remained as an inquest, those documents would have had to be excluded from my enquiries. That was the effect of the PII rulings made by me and by the divisional court last year. It was for precisely that reason – that is to enable me to consider this material in closed hearings – that I asked the government to establish this inquiry.”

Q: What has the Inquiry been set up to establish?

The purpose of the inquiry is to seek to establish the facts surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko as required by the Terms of Reference. The Chairman will make appropriate recommendations in light of his findings of fact.

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Logistics of the Inquiry

Q: What is the format of the Inquiry?

The Litvinenko Inquiry has been established under the Inquiries Act 2005. Other inquiries established under the 2005 Act include the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry in England, the E Coli Inquiry in Wales and the ICL Inquiry held jointly between Scotland and England.

Such inquiries are essentially inquisitorial in nature and, subject to the legislative provisions, their procedure and conduct are matters for the Chairman to decide. As such, no two inquiries are the same.

The inquiry is charged with carrying out an investigation within its Terms of Reference.

Q: How long will the Inquiry take?

There are three principal stages to the Inquiry.

1) The first was investigative. The inquiry gathered together documentation and other materials relevant to its Terms of Reference, some of which were obtained during the inquest’s procedures.

2) Secondly, the inquiry held oral open hearings between 27 January and 30 March 2015, recommencing on 24 July 2015 and ending on 31 July 2015. Witnesses who had provided a written statement were asked to attend to give evidence in the hearing room. Witnesses who live or work abroad were invited to give their oral evidence via a video link rather than having to travel to the United Kingdom. Witnesses were questioned by Counsel to the Inquiry, and sometimes other counsel who represent the core participants and/or witnesses. The Chairman listened to their evidence and sometimes put questions of his own.  There was a series of oral closed hearings from which the public, most of the core participants and the press were excluded. The Chairman also considered evidence which was received in written or documentary form, some of it highly classified.

3) Now the the oral hearings have concluded the third and final stage is report writing. Having heard and read all of the evidence gathered by the inquiry, the Chairman is writing a report of his findings in which he will make any recommendations for the future. The Chairman expects to submit his report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department by the end of 2015 -the timing of the publication of the report is a matter for discussion between the Secretary of State and the Chairman.

Q: Are records of proceedings available on the website?

During the open hearings, transcripts of each day’s hearing and the evidence considered were published on this website, unless any contrary order or restriction notice made under section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 was in place.

Directions Orders made by the Chairman have been published in the documents section of the website.

Q: How much will the Inquiry cost and who is paying?

The inquiry is funded through the Home Office. The inquiry publishes details of its expenditure on a monthly basis in the costs section on this website.

Q: Can I put in a Freedom of Information request for information relating to the Inquiry?

As an independent Public Inquiry, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Litvinenko Inquiry. However, in keeping with the spirit of the freedom of information, we operate in as transparent and open a manner as possible in keeping with the interests of justice.

If you wish to submit a request for information, please contact the Solicitor to the Inquiry.

In common with many other organisations that are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, we will consider your request for information as if we were covered. This means that we will release the information if we hold it, unless one of the provisions under the Act applies and we determine that complying with the request would not be in keeping with the public interest.

We will respond to your request within 20 working days, either providing the information or explaining why we cannot provide it.

Q: How can I contact the Inquiry if I have evidence relevant to its Terms of Reference?

Those who believe they may have relevant evidence should contact the inquiry by emailing Martin Smith, Solicitor to the Inquiry, at martin.smith@fieldfisher.com, or by telephoning him on +44 (0)20 7861 4000. Preliminary questions will be asked to ascertain whether the person making the contact does in fact have evidence relevant to the inquiry’s Terms of Reference.

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Progress with the Inquiry

Public hearings took place between 27 January and 30 March 2015, recommencing on 24 July 2015 and ending on 31 July 2015.

Q: How does the Inquiry handle disclosure?

Disclosure is the process during which the inquiry acquires the majority of its documentary evidence. The inquiry also has powers to compel individuals and organisations to provide documents that may be relevant to its Terms of Reference. All documents provided to the inquiry are reviewed for relevance.

Those providing documents may apply to the Chairman for information to be redacted for legal reasons e.g. on grounds of security. The Chairman will consider such applications and, where appropriate, may grant a restriction order pursuant to section 19 of the Inquiries Act. Personal information relating to individuals may also be redacted to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Once the documents have gone through this process they are then loaded onto the inquiry’s evidence database and disclosed to core participants.

Q: What are protective measures and how is the Inquiry applying them?

Protective measures are mechanisms put in place to ensure the safety of witnesses to the inquiry. Such measures can include preventing disclosure of a witness’ name or image in documentary evidence or at oral hearings.

Witnesses will be given the opportunity to make an application to the Chairman for appropriate measures to be put in place. Applications must meet certain criteria and demonstrate the risk which might result from disclosure of the witness’s identity. The Chairman will then make a ruling on whether to grant or reject the application either in full or in part.

Q: When will the Chairman publish his findings?

The Chairman completed oral hearings on 31 July 2015.  he intends to submit his report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department by the end of 2015. The timing of the publication of the report is a matter for discussion between the Secretary of State and the Chairman.

Q: Did the further open hearings in July 2015 delay the submission of the report to the Secretary of State?

No, those hearings were unlikely, of themselves, to have affected the report writing timetable.

Q: Why were the further open hearings necessary?

The Chairman scheduled further open hearings because in March 2015 Mr Dmitri Kovtun approached the inquiry to say that he was prepared to give oral evidence. Arrangements needed to be made to allow Mr Kovtun to give evidence by video link and for the inquiry legal team and those representing core partcipants to consider what questions should be asked.

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Q: When did the Inquiry hold oral hearings?

Public hearings took place between 27 January and 30 March 2015; recommenced on 24 July and finished on 31 July 2015.

Q: Were members of the public and media permitted to attend hearings?

Yes. Hearings were open to the public and media unless a restriction notice was in place, or the Chairman had directed that a witness should have anonymity, or other protective measures. Where protective measeures were in place, the public and media could usually follow proceedings from the inquiry annex, with restriction relevant to the witness in question.

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Core Participants & Witnesses

Q: Who are core participants?

Rule 5(1) of the Inquiry Rules 2006 makes it clear that a core participant is usually someone who played or may have played a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the inquiry relates; or who has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matter to which the inquiry relates; or who may be subject to significant or explicit criticism during the proceedings at the inquiry or in the report.

At present the core participants are:

  • Mrs Marina Litvinenko and Mr Anatoly Litvinenko
  • The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
  • The Secretary of State for the Home Department
  • AWE plc
  • Mr Dmitri Kovtun

A core participant will not necessarily be a core participant for the entirety of the inquiry.

Q:  Who are the core participants’ legal representatives?

Mrs Marina Litvinenko & Mr Anatoly Litvinenko

Counsel: Ben Emmerson QC and Adam Straw
Solicitor: Elena Tsirlina, Blokh Solicitors [+44 (0)20 7034 7055]

The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Counsel: Richard Horwell QC and Saba Naqshbandi
Solicitor: Jenny Leonard and Prit Mandair, Directorate of Legal Services  [+44 (0)20 7230 1212]

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Counsel: Neil Garnham QC and Robert Wastell
Solicitor: Paul Bishop and Catherine Turtle, Treasury Solicitor’s Department  [+44 (0)20 7210 3000]

AWE plc

Counsel: David Evans QC and Alasdair Henderson
Solicitor: Simon Ramsden, Treasury Solicitor’s Department  [+44 (0)20 7210 3000]

Mr Dmitri Kovtun

Counsel: tbc
Solicitor: tbc

Q: Who will be represented before the Inquiry?

The Chairman may designate persons, bodies or organisations as core participants provided that person, body or organisation consents to be so designated. Anyone so designated may appoint a legal representative and, where appointed, it is the role of the legal representative to assist their core participant client to assist the inquiry.

The current core particpants’ legal representatives are listed above.

A witness may also appoint a legal representative but does not need to be represented in order to engage with the inquiry. Anyone giving evidence – whether written or oral – to the inquiry may seek the assistance of the inquiry team, or they may seek the assistance of a lawyer of their choosing, or they may seek no assistance at all.

Appointment of a legal representative does not give a right for any legal expenses incurred to be paid for from the public purse.

Members, or former members, of large organisations will be expected to be provided with any legal assistance considered appropriate by that organisation.

Q: Were any witnesses offered immunity from prosecution?

There are no immunities from prosecution that relate to the Inquiry’s work.

Q: What involvement will the Home Secretary have in this Inquiry?

The Minister responsible for the inquiry, in this case the Home Secretary, has various powers and duties under the Inquiries Act 2005 in relation to the conduct of the inquiry.

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Sir Robert Owen

Q: Why was Sir Robert Owen appointed to lead the Inquiry?

Having been the Assistant Coroner responsible for the inquest looking into the death of Alexander Litvinenko since 7 August 2012, Sir Robert Owen is well qualified to take on the role of Chairman of the inquiry investigating Mr Litvinenko’s death.

Q: What is the Chairman’s role?

The Chairman of the Inquiry is responsible for discharging the inquiry’s Terms of Reference and decides its procedures, subject to a statutory duty to act fairly.

He supervises the running of the inquiry and will write the report at its conclusion, making findings of fact and any relevant recommendations for the future. He cannot make any findings of civil or criminal liability, nor can he award any compensation.

Q: Who assists the Chairman?

Sir Robert Owen is assisted by a team of people, including:

  • The Solicitor to the Inquiry – he administers the legal functions of the inquiry
  • Counsel to the Inquiry – it is their job to advise the Chairman and to conduct the oral hearings
  • A Secretariat – responsible for administering all the non-legal aspects of the inquiry (e.g. finance, accommodation, hearings, security, personnel, media and the website)

Q: To whom is the Chairman accountable?

As Chairman of the Inquiry Sir Robert Owen acts in an independent capacity and he expects to submit his report to the Home Secretary by the end of 2015.

Q: Will the Chairman give interviews?

Sir Robert Owen will not give any media interviews.

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