The commission of inquiry released more detailed information this week about the protocols for providing evidence to the team, and how that information subsequently may be redacted.
Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom explained in a press release on March 5 how his team’s two-stage approach to sorting through evidence gives people who want anonymity a clear way to request it. But he stressed that people providing documents should not omit information they deem irrelevant or sensitive before giving it to the commission.
“On providing information through the website, members of the public are able to confirm whether they wish to remain anonymous in the sense that they do not wish anything to be used in evidence or published which, directly or indirectly, will lead to their identification as the source of the information, and whether they wish the information they submit to remain confidential and not to be used in evidence or in the commissioner’s report,” the release states.
Community members can contact the commission through the online portal at www.bvi.public-inquiry.uk.
Besides relying on the public to volunteer information, the commission can also send a “letter of request” to produce relevant documents, according to the statement.
If a request is not fulfilled completely by the requested deadline, the commissioner can exercise his power to call for documents, summon witnesses, and examine witnesses under oath, per the VI’s Commissions of Inquiry Act 1880.
Barring a plainly identified legal basis, the commission said nothing should be deleted from requested evidence.
“The commissioner does not expect redactions of personal data in respect of documents provided to the COI to be made in light of the substantial public interest in the COI receiving relevant documents,” Sir Gary explained in the release.
There are certain “safeguards” in place to make sure sensitive information isn’t publicised, he wrote.
First, information is disclosed solely to the commission. Then, certain documents can be released to witnesses or the public “insofar as this is necessary to fulfil the COI’s terms of reference, at which stage the COI will afford a [provider of documents] an opportunity to seek redaction including on the ground of public interest immunity.”
People requesting a redaction can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The press release clarified that any final decisions about giving evidence in a fair manner that helps “avoid unnecessary delay” would be up to the commissioner.