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New lawyers appointed as counsel to Scotland’s Covid-19 inquiry

The new chairman of the public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland has appointed four counsel.

Lord Brailsford was appointed chairman in October following the resignation of Lady Poole for personal reasons earlier that month.

Four lawyers working on the inquiry also quit after Lady Poole.

Lord Brailsford has now appointed Stuart Gale KC as co-lead counsel, and Faryma Bahrami, Mary Ellen Stewart and Alan Caskie as junior counsel to the inquiry.

Scottish Covid-19 public inquiry
Bereaved families met Lord Brailsford on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In a statement, the inquiry said: “Junior counsel will work closely with Stuart and Laura-Anne van der Westhuizen KC, who will jointly lead the inquiry’s counsel team.

“Together with David Turner, junior counsel, they will be responsible for conducting legal research, analysing and reviewing documents, identifying evidence, drafting materials, and assisting with the preparation of hearings.”

Ms van der Westhuizen was appointed as co-lead counsel to the inquiry in March 2022.

Mr Gale was called to the Bar in 1980 and took silk in 1993. He specialises in public and administrative law, with considerable experience of public inquiries, and recently acted in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

He has also lectured in Scotland and the Isle of Man on the form and practice of public inquiries.

Lord Brailsford
Lord Brailsford is chair of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry (PA)

The announcement of the appointments comes after grieving families said on Tuesday that Lord Brailsford has “pressed the reset button” on Scotland’s coronavirus inquiry.

He met with families of those who lost their lives to the virus for more than two hours in Edinburgh.

Speaking afterwards, Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing Scottish Covid-19 bereaved, said they “welcomed the genuine empathy and compassion that Lord Brailsford showed them today as they as they told him their heart-breaking stories”.

Mr Anwar said: “The families recognise the mammoth task that is faced by Lord Brailsford, but believe that he has pressed the reset button on the Scottish inquiry and were heartened to learn he hopes to commence hearings in 2023.”

The inquiry was set up to investigate areas such as pre-pandemic planning, the decision to go into lockdown, the supply and distribution of personal protective equipment and how coronavirus was dealt with in care homes.