The Chair of the Review is Kate Brunner KC
Ms Brunner KC’s role is to lead the Independent Covid Review. She is responsible for appointing the Review Team, setting the Review’s methodology, commissioning and undertaking research. The Chair is the sole decision-maker for the Review and will be responsible for the evaluation of evidence, and drafting and presenting her report.
Ms Brunner KC is a Barrister and King’s Counsel at Albion Chambers in Bristol practising largely in crime, healthcare and regulatory law. Ms Brunner is also an associate tenant of the 36 Group, London.
In her work as a Barrister Ms Brunner KC has led teams of investigators and lawyers in cases of murder, gross-negligence manslaughter and inquests, with cases sometimes running for many months. She holds two part-time judicial positions, as a Recorder (sitting in the Crown Court with juries) and Judge of the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber).
Ms Brunner was Leader of the Western Circuit 2019-2022. She was elected to represent the Barristers in the South West, one of six geographical ‘circuits’ that make up the Bar of England and Wales. She has instigated numerous research and review programmes, and initiatives. These have included:
- A review of the Government’s closure of courtrooms in criminal courts.
The methodology sought to conduct a gap analysis of data, and fill them 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, led by Ms Brunner as Leader of the Western Circuit, into safety in court buildings during the Covid pandemic, resulted in her 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.
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 hears appeals from first-instance decisions relating to alleged breaches of the Pharmaceutical Industry Code of Conduct.
Ms Brunner received the ‘Leading Silk, Tier-One’ accolade in three different categories from the 2023 Legal 500 Rankings: Inquests and Inquiries, Business and Regulatory, and Crime: ‘A stand-out silk with a robust approach.’
Counsel to the Review is Alex West
Counsel to the Review is Alex West. His role is to assist the Chair in all aspects of the Review save for the evaluation of evidence. He will carry out research and case studies, analyse documentary material, lead focus group meetings and provide legal support to the Chair.
Alex is an experienced Barrister whose specialisms include Inquests and Inquiries, which look at the circumstances leading to a person’s death and include an assessment of whether there is any responsibility for the death on behalf of public authorities. He is head of the Inquests and Inquiries team at Albion Chambers and is ranked as a leading Tier-one practitioner by the Legal 500.
Alex’s experience has seen him represent the families of deceased individuals, as well as a range of public authorities including prisons, health trusts, regulators, care homes and local authorities. Alex also has significant experience in healthcare work and regulatory law.
The Project Manager is Rachael Geddes
Rachael Geddes works at Croft Consulting. Her role as project manager for the Review includes witness liaison, timetabling the Review team’s work, auditing, collating and marshalling of Review documentation, management of the Review’s document platform, coordination of written submissions, and process design.
Rachael is an accomplished communications and project manager with experience across a variety of sectors, including retail, tourism, finance and professional services. She has extensive experience working with both start-ups and complex organisations, leading projects and communicating with diverse audiences, stakeholder groups and remote teams.
The Expert Consultants are Dame Mary Ney and Dr Mike Gill
Their role is to advise the Chair in their specialist areas:
- Governance and resilience — Dame Mary Ney
- Public health — Dr Mike Gill
Dame Mary Ney DBE
Mary Ney has a BSc and an MSc in Mathematics from London University and a postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies. She has pursued a career in public services for over forty years, initially in British Telecoms and then in local government and consultancy.
She first worked in various roles in policy, strategic planning and financial management in Westminster, Haringey and Southwark Councils. In 1992 she was appointed Director of Social Services and Housing for the London Borough of Harrow.
She held the post of Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich from 2000 to 2014. That period saw the transformation of council services, major regeneration of the borough and the development of the local economy. In 2012, Greenwich became a Royal Borough and successfully hosted three venues for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Royal Borough of Greenwich was awarded ‘Council of the Year 2013’ by the LGC. She has extensive experience of resilience arrangements including as London Local Authority Gold during live incidents.
In 2014, Mary was an inspector on the Casey Corporate Governance Inspection of Rotherham MBC. Following the removal of decision-making powers from the Council in 2015, she was appointed by the Secretary of State as a Commissioner in Rotherham to its successful conclusion at the end of a four-year period of intervention.
From 2016 -2022, she was a non-executive director at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
She undertakes mentoring and strategic consultancy projects and is a Senior Associate of Cratus Communications. Mary has undertaken a number of strategic reviews for the UK Government including a Review of the Governance of Local Enterprise Partnerships, an Independent Review of FE Colleges Financial Oversight, and a Rapid Stocktake of the Lessons Learnt and Good Practice in Management of Local Covid outbreaks with a focus on the experience in Leicester City and Leicestershire. She undertook a review of London Resilience Structures for London Councils.
In the 2019 New Year’s Honours List she was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to local government.
Dr Mike Gill MA MSc FRCP FFPH
Dr Mike Gill has worked as a Director of Public Health at District Health Authority level in the nineties in Brent and Harrow, and for seven years within the Department of Health as Regional Director of Public Health for the South East Region. During that time he had lead national responsibilities for ‘seasonal deaths’, leading to the first Heatwave plan for England in 2004, for the roll out of screening programmes as a member of the National Screening Committee, and for the commissioning of highly specialised services across UK as chairman of the National Specialist Commissioning Advisory Group (NSCAG).
Since then he co-founded the Climate and Health Council and helped in the establishment of new medical and nursing schools in Somaliland.
Recently, Dr Gill has been a frequent contributor to the British Medical Journal through editorials and op-eds on various aspects of management of the pandemic in England.
Legal advisors and research support
The Review is also assisted by solicitors as and when necessary, for example to assist with drafting contracts and to advise in relation to data protection issues.
The Chair is also supported as necessary by research assistants.