Louis Browne KC has extensive recent experience of acting at major public inquiries. He has most recently represented:
- the Fire Officers Association (“FOA”) and Richard Welch at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry (2018 – to date),
- the University of Salford (“UoS”) at the Manchester Arena Inquiry; the bomber was a student at the University.
In 2017 – 2018, Louis chaired the UoS Independent Investigation Review Panel into the adequacy and effectiveness of its duties under Prevent and its structures and mechanisms around student welfare, support and engagement. As Chairman, he:
- drafted the Terms of Reference,
- identified evidence likely to be required to discharge the duties of the Panel, and chaired all meetings of the Panel (at which the Terms of Reference and evidential framework which Louis drafted were opened up for discussion),
- proactively encouraged the voicing of any concerns and alternative views so that through open and frank discussion, the point of consensus was reached; all Panel members were entirely comfortable with the agreed way forward,
- led the Panel in its decision making as to which witnesses to call; requiring careful judgement calls to ensure that comprehensive evidence was presented whilst adhering to timetable constraints and overall efficiency,
- interviewed witnesses, working closely with and encouraging the full input of the Solicitors to the Panel to draft topics and questions.
After taking and reviewing the relevant evidence, Louis prepared the first draft of both the Evidence Review and the Report, setting out Conclusions and Recommendations. This followed close liaison with all other members of the Panel, which included an MP and senior academic staff and educationalists. The Evidence Review and Report was agreed by the Panel, with minimal amendments and was positively received by the University Council.
At the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, as Counsel for FOA/Richard Welch, Louis persuaded the Inquiry to grant Core Participant status for his clients. He took the lead in securing funding for them from the Chairman, having carefully considered the relevant provisions of the Inquiry Act 2005 and the Inquiry Rules 2006. Louis prepared and delivered the Opening and Closing Statements for various modules. Participation at this Inquiry required close working with Leading Counsel for the London Fire Brigade, Counsel for the Fire Brigade Union and the Inquiry Counsel Team. In this way, the suggested topics for questioning of key witnesses was relevant and focussed, eliciting important evidence as to the causes of the fire and the actions of firefighters on the night.
At the Manchester Arena Inquiry, drawing on the extensive knowledge gained from chairing the Review, Louis prepared and delivered orally UoS’ Opening Statement. Careful analysis of the evidence on complicated and sensitive issues, including on the scope of the Prevent duty and Radicalisation, allowed him to question the expert education witness to good effect. He made oral submissions during the course of the Inquiry, explaining complex issues in terms accessible to all, and in a manner that demonstrated sensitivity to those who had been deeply affected by the incident.
At both Inquiries, without a junior, Louis marshalled extensive evidence, including immensely complex expert evidence. He prioritised and condensed this material to produce succinct and incisive written and oral submissions, ensuring the evidence was presented in straightforward and easily understood terms. His approach is thorough but rigorously efficient in managing his various Inquiry workstreams alongside other professional commitments.
Given the highly sensitive nature of both inquiries, Louis’ open and honest approach to the evidence and close engagement with other members of the inquiry teams was imperative in ensuring the confidence and trust of both colleagues and the chairs. His inquiry work has demanded sound legal judgement and strategic thinking in the preparation of complex and voluminous evidence, advance planning and rigorous prioritisation of workload and, perhaps most importantly, truly collaborative working which inspires confidence and trust.
Louis Browne KC is on the Government Panel of Approved Silks.