Our experienced team led by Kate Brunner KC, has significant expertise in this area and is able to undertake and chair reviews and independent investigations for a range of clients, including governments, government departments, local authorities, corporations, universities or other bodies. The team can design and lead investigations into a wide range of subject matters, from governance and structural issues, allegations of cultural issues such as sexism, and allegations of individual misconduct. We are able to initiate and manage the process throughout, providing either a single investigator to lead the project and report, or a team of researchers, with administrative support if necessary. Members of the team have both chaired reviews, and acted as counsel for reviews, providing legal and strategic support. Expert advisors can be engaged where that is necessary, although team members are experienced in dealing with factually complex and sensitive issues. We also represent individuals and organisations who are required to provide evidence or attend a review or statutory inquiry.
The team works nationally and internationally, with Kate Brunner KC having recently chaired a landmark project, the Isle of Man Covid Review. Three further members of our team were also involved in this review, Alexander West, Lana Murphy, Rachael Stitt, ensuring its smooth running and timely conclusion.
When terms of reference and the scope of the review have been established, we look to gather all evidence in a professional and structured manner and ensure that the process is always conducted fairly and lawfully. As an investigation evolves our team are able to adjust and adapt to ensure that all new relevant lines of investigations are followed. Investigation techniques are adapted to the particular circumstances to ensure that the most reliable and useful material is gathered, usually through a combination of interviews, non-attributable group discussions, written submissions and documentary analysis. Reports are robust and clear, designed to be accessible and constructive. The team can provide post-report briefings to ensure that the findings are well understood, and provide support to organisations wanting to implement and embed recommendations.
We understand the need for reports and recommendations to be delivered within set timescales and providing value for money, and we always look to ensure that that deadlines and costs estimates are adhered to.
For further information please contact our Chambers Director, Nick Jeanes.
Kate Brunner KC
Kate leads the Independent Review team.
Kate works closely with an external bank of support personnel including a project manager and experts which enables her to set up new reviews swiftly.
Kate was singled out in the Legal 500 2022 and 2023 as a leading silk in inquiries and inquest work: the only silk on the Western Circuit to be in that category.
Kate recently chaired a large and significant review, the Isle of Man Independent Covid Review, which reported in January 2024 (covidreview.im). Kate recruited and led a team of expert advisors, researchers, administrators and solicitors. She set up the Review process, which included setting data protection arrangements, document management systems, working protocols. A variety of established methods were used to gather evidence including formal interviews, focus groups, public meetings and written submissions. The Review gathered evidence from hundreds of people and groups, and obtained hundreds of thousands of documents. Kate’s assessment of a wide range of areas, including education, financial schemes, command and advisory structures and social care, is brought together in the final report. Recommendations are made to assist the Isle of Man to prepare for future prolonged emergencies. That report has been created in sections and designed with care to maximise its accessibility to members of the public, as well as to maximise its use to the current and future Manx governments.
Kate’s work leading the Covid Review built on work undertaken previously while Leader of the Western Circuit between 2019-2022 when she instigated numerous research and review programmes, and initiatives. Those included:
- A review of the Government’s closure of courtrooms in criminal courts. The methodology included a gap analysis of data, filling gaps through liaison with the Office of National Statistics, an analysis of court listings, and interviews with stakeholders, many of whom requested anonymity. The report, This doesn’t Look Like Justice received national media interest and exposure.
- An investigation into safety in court buildings during the Covid pandemic, leading to the Report on Court Safety. The first investigation of its kind to address the specific issues in court buildings during the pandemic, it was evaluated by HM Court Service, and was the trigger for practical changes and improvements.
- A review into retention of woman at the Bar. Kate set-up the review process, and, with her team of lawyers, a researcher and statistician, created an online survey and implemented desk-based research. With selected key individuals and stakeholders, she conducted in-depth and wide-ranging interviews. The resulting report, Back to the Bar received national recognition and was the platform for best-practice guides.
Kate has many years experience leading large teams of investigators and lawyers in cases of murder, gross-negligence manslaughter and inquests, with cases sometimes running for many months. She has been consistently identified by legal directories as a leading silk. She holds two part-time judicial positions in criminal and civil work, as a Recorder (sitting in the Crown Court with juries) and Judge of the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber). Ms Brunner was selected in 2020 to be Chair of the Appeal Board of the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, the self–regulatory arm of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. She chairs a Board which determines appeals from first-instance decisions relating to alleged breaches of the Pharmaceutical Industry Code of Conduct. She has considerable experience dealing with regulatory, criminal and inquest cases relating to healthcare, industrial accidents, mental health, police actions, social care and many other areas.
Kate received the Leading Silk Tier 1 in three different categories from the 2023 Legal 500 Rankings: Inquests and Inquiries, Business and Regulatory Crime incl. Health & Safety and Crime.
‘A stand-out silk with a robust approach.’ Legal 500, 2023
‘Kate is responsive and collaborative and gives very helpful, strategic and practical advice.’ Chambers and Partners, 2023
‘Kate is a tour de force. She exudes confidence and is able to live up to her reputation because she is phenomenally hard working and smart.’ Legal 500, 2021
Alexander was Counsel to the Review for the Isle of Man’s Independent Covid Review between September 2022 – December 2023, working within a team chaired by Kate Brunner KC and responsible for reviewing the IOM Government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The period under review spanned more than two years, and generated over half a million documents for consideration. Alexander’s role was to assist the Chair with all aspects of the Review, which included interviewing witnesses, holding focus group meetings, gathering evidence from representative groups, considering submissions and reviewing written evidence.
Alexander’s other independent review work includes conducting reviews into a number of deaths in custody for a private prison provider, working across three different prison estates. The work included site visits, and Alexander’s final reports identified a number of areas of improvement that could help to reduce the incidence of deaths in custody.
In addition to independent review work, Alexander is also head of Albion Chambers’ Inquest Team, and has been appointed as Counsel to the Inquest for a multi-week inquest in 2024, concerned with the death of a young man who died within 24 hours of being arrested, detained and released by police. He is ranked as a Tier 1 Leading Junior for Inquests in the Legal 500, and is also ranked for Inquest and Public Inquiries in Chambers and Partners.”
Independent reviews are of particular interest to Lana. Her recent experience in this area include acting as Lead Researcher and Document Analyst as part of the Independent Isle of Man Covid Review. This Review was commissioned in order to evaluate the Government’s response to the pandemic. Lana assisted the Chair by undertaking accurate research, analysing large volumes of material, and providing administrative support to the team. Further responsibilities included meeting and interviewing witnesses, and assisting with drafting material for the final report.
Rachael acted as a research assistant as part of the Independent Isle of Man Covid Review. Rachael assisted with organising large quantities of material, assisted with research tasks and provided a general support role.