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On 23 April the Law Commission publishes its consultation paper on the legal ...
On 23 April the Law Commission publishes its consultation paper on the legal

issues surrounding the publication of local authority inquiry reports.

Ronald Waterhouse conducted a major inquiry into abuse in council-run children's

homes in Wales. In his report, Lost in Care, published in February 2000, he asked the

Law Commission to consider the various legal problems which might arise when a local

authority comes to publish the report of an ad hoc inquiry.

A local authority inquiry report, and the question whether it is published or not, is of interest not just to the individuals and their families whose complaint led to the inquiry, but also to all those who participate in the inquiry and who are affected by its conclusions.

Publication is also a matter of wider public interest because if a report is not published when it should be, then whatever has gone wrong will be more likely to occur again, and other authorities and bodies which could also benefit from the report will not be prompted to improve their own practices.

While the commission has considered the issues only in relation to local authority ad

hoc inquiries, it believes the same underlying principles will apply to other kinds of inquiries. Therefore this paper is relevant not only to local authorities but also to other bodies which instigate non-statutory inquiries.

The consultation paper examines the law in relation to local authority ad hoc inquiries and admissions of liability, waiver of rights and their impact on liability insurance, and the defence of qualified privilege in defamation.

The Law Commission proposes a change to the law on defamation, and asks whether

local authorities need a new power for the conduct of inquiries.

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