The Chair will give regular updates on the progress of the Review.
The latest Update will always be at the top of this page.
Chair’s Update — 6 November, 2023
Memorandum of understanding between Kate Brunner KC, Chair of the Brunner Review and Richard Wright KC, Chair of the Wright Review
Memorandum of Understanding
- The Brunner Review and the Wright review are independent of one another and have been throughout the life of each review.
- As independent reviews each Chair is able and entitled to reach their own conclusion on any issue that is properly within the remit of the Terms of Reference of their Review.
- The Chairs have been cognisant of the need to preserve public funds wherever possible and have avoided where practicable the unnecessary duplication of work and sought to limit any overlap between their Reviews subject to each Review making its own independent assessment of any topic that falls within their Terms of Reference.
Terms of Reference
The terms of reference for the Brunner Review can be found here.
The terms of reference for the Wright Review are set out in Tynwald Proceedings PP2023/0100
The Wright Review Terms of Reference contain the following acknowledgement :
“(8) It is acknowledged that there is likely to be an area of overlap with the Isle of Man Covid Review being undertaken by Kate Brunner KC. The Reviewer may liaise with Ms Brunner KC in any way deemed appropriate by both that does not compromise the independence of either review. Kate Brunner is expected to complete her review by Sunday 31st December 2023.”
Particular Areas of Review
Having regard to the Terms of Reference and the Fundamental Principles set out above the Chairs have agreed that:
- The Wright Review will lead on investigating allegations that documents were either created or concocted and subsequently disclosed or relied upon the course of the Ranson litigation
- Whilst the Brunner Review has received and will consider the materials that were before the Ranson Tribunal in so far as that material may be relevant to the issues in the Brunner Review Terms of Reference the Brunner Review will not consider material to which Legal Professional Privilege (LPP) attaches. The Wright Review will consider material of that description to the extent that LPP has been waived by any party holding such material.
Document and Information Sharing
The sharing of documents and information is restricted by the data protection and confidentiality policy and agreements separately applicable to each Review. In particular:
- The Brunner Review data protection and confidentiality notices and policies do not make any reference to the Wright Review.
- Consequently, whilst the Brunner Review is able to draw the attention of the Wright Review to material that it may wish to seek to obtain itself, it will not share information of any sort directly with the Wright Review.
- In contrast the Wright Review Terms of Reference enable the Chair to provide information to the Brunner review unless any data protection, confidentiality or other policy or agreement prevents that sharing.
- The Wright Review will not share material to which LPP attaches unless LPP has been waived in respect of that material and express permission has been granted by the party waiving LPP for the material to be shared with the Brunner Review.
- The Chairs will liaise to ensure that provisional conclusions are shared where appropriate and consistent with the principles identified above.
- The Review teams do not have access to each other’s database of evidence and no such access will be sought or granted by either Chair.
Chair’s Update — 6 November, 2023
I have been made aware this morning of public comments made by Mr Moulton in which he makes various allegations concerning the conduct of the Review, in particular relating to conversations between us on Sunday 23rd July 2023.
My consistent position throughout the process has been that the Review will be best-placed to consider both the events of the weekend of 13-16 March 2020, and the Government’s handling of the pandemic as a whole. Those events will be considered independently, without fear or favour, and without any direction from Government, members of the public or members of the press.
In July 2023, actions by Mr Moulton and by Government led to a number of people expressing concerns about participating in the Review. Where there are risks to the Review process I raise those with the relevant people. I communicated with Government, as I explained in press releases in July. I also communicated with Mr Moulton on 23 July. When I explained the situation to Mr Moulton he agreed that it was in the public interest that witnesses were not discouraged from participating in the Review, and was content to pause his reporting about the early pandemic, but wanted there to be a public statement to explain why he was pausing that reporting.
Following that conversation I drafted a press release which is attached and which reflects our conversation. After further communication from Mr Moulton’s advisor and Mr Moulton I removed reference to Mr Moulton in the subsequent press release issued on 29th July 2023. My message remained the same: a request to all to be mindful of the fact that I am conducting an independent review about a very sensitive period in IOM recent history.
For the sake of clarity, when I spoke to Mr Moulton I did not suggest the Review was in danger of collapsing, nor have I ever done so. Neither did I seek to prevent Mr Moulton from pursuing his Freedom of Information requests to the Isle of Man Government. That is a matter for Mr Moulton and the Government, and in conversation with Mr Moulton as well as a previous press release I have made my position on that issue clear.
Given Mr Moulton’s recent comments, I am happy to provide the draft press release as a contemporaneous record of the Review’s intentions regarding the conversation with Mr Moulton on 23rd July 2023.
I repeat that this Review is a rigorous and independent investigation. My thanks again to the many individuals who have provided information and insight to the Review over the last year. I look forward to delivering my report to Tynwald and the Manx public in due course.
Chair’s Update — 3 November, 2023
The Review regularly receives requests about what material it does, or does not have.
The Review is not publishing information about what evidence has been gathered or who has been spoken to until the report is finalised.
In line with the Review’s protocols, nobody has been provided with a list of material held by the Review. It follows that nobody is in a position to accurately say what material the Review does or does not have.
If anybody is concerned that the Review does not have a particular piece of material please indicate that either in an email to me, or by making a submission here – which can be anonymised if you would prefer, by November 17. The Review team will then ascertain whether we have that material and, if not, take steps to obtain it if the Chair thinks it relevant
Chair’s Update — 1 November, 2023
A letter from the British Medical Association to the Chief Minister dated 28 October 2023 has been published today. The letter reports Dr Ranson’s and BMA’s view that the Review will not be able to uncover the truth. It is regrettable that the author of the letter did not seek to contact me to find out about the processes of the Review, which are robust and independent.
I invite analysis of the report when it is published in two months’ time, rather than conjecture about the Review’s processes and findings at this stage.
I can reassure the hundreds of people who have given their time and energy to assist the Review that I have been able to build up a full picture of what took place during the pandemic, not just in relation to the decision-making around closing the borders, but in relation to many other areas including education, testing and the vaccination programme. That picture is built up not just by speaking to people, but also by a close analysis of contemporaneous documents such as emails, meeting minutes and notes of conversations. The Review is not publishing information about what evidence has been gathered or who has been spoken to until the report is finalised.
The Covid Review is a rigorous and independent investigation which has been given full access to Government material, and has obtained frank evidence from many current and previous Government employees and members of the public. The Review is in the final stages of evaluating the material which has been gathered, and seeking further data where required, and will report at the end of the year as planned.
It is open to me to call for a Statutory Inquiry, and I would not hesitate to do so if I felt that I was unable to reach sound conclusions on a topic because of the absence of a witness or a document. I remain satisfied that the Review process is an effective way to investigate the pandemic response, as Tynwald intended.
Thank you to the Manx public who have provided me with their insight, useful information and material, and to all those who have participated. I recognise that it is a difficult process, and has been distressing for some people, but you have all assisted me to create a report which will explain what happened across Government, and assist any future Government dealing with a prolonged emergency situation.
Chair’s Update — 13 October, 2023
The Review team has completed the evidence-gathering stage of the Review. We have been assisted by hundreds of Isle of Man residents, and have a large database of documents which are being analysed.
Interviews with key figures in the pandemic have been carried out. We are now considering the material which we have gathered to reach conclusions about what happened, what went well, what did not go well, and what recommendations will assist any future Government facing a pandemic. The intention remains to report by the end of the year.
Although we are not actively seeking further evidence, if you have information which you wish to share you are still encouraged to get in touch: please contact the project manager: email@example.com
Chair’s Update — 29 July, 2023
Further to my update of 20 July and requests made of Government, the Review has received a response from Government which is published here. I am grateful for that response and in particular the assurance that Government will make clear that it is not seeking to restrict any person’s full and frank cooperation with this Review.
My continuing request of Government and the media is to remain mindful of the fact that I am in the middle of conducting an Independent Review about a very sensitive period in IOM recent history.
For transparency I am providing further information below about three issues which have been raised recently.
Evidence in relation to March 2020
The Review has been asked repeatedly about whether it has gathered certain pieces of evidence relating to decision-making around border controls. Generally, information about what material the Review has gathered, and who the Review has spoken to is not shared until publication of the report. I can, however, provide reassurance that the Review has gathered a great deal of material about what happened in March 2020 when decisions were being taken about border controls, including Government emails, contemporaneous notes, meeting minutes and witness evidence. That early decision-making is being robustly investigated in the course of the Review, along with many other aspects of Government’s response to the pandemic.
The Review has already gathered useful evidence from hundreds of people. A small number of people both in and outside Government have expressed concerns about participating in the Review. I can assure anyone who has yet to participate that this Review is scrupulously independent. I am not acting for, or against, Government: I am reviewing Government’s actions in an impartial way. Witnesses have the option of sharing information confidentially, as many have done, and I will entirely respect that confidentiality. Material which I gather is stored on a database which Government and the public do not have access to. I liaise with Government via Sponsors in relation to matters such as budget. I also liaise with Government via a team which locates Government material at my request and provides it to the Review. I do not provide information which I gather to Government. My report will be published independently and is not seen by Government before publication. There is more information on the website and in the privacy notice about how the Review handles material. I hope that this allays any witness’s concerns, but they are free to contact the Review at any time in confidence to discuss our procedures.
Whether a public inquiry is recommended
I have had extensive cooperation and assistance from members of the public, from many people who have left Government, and from many people still within Government. In short, the Review is proceeding well, and remains on track to report by 31 December 2023 as Tynwald has required. Where there are blocks to the Review proceeding as I would like, or risks to the Review process I raise those with the relevant people, as I have done in recent correspondence with Government. It is open to me within the Terms of Reference to recommend that a Statutory Inquiry (also called a public inquiry) should take place to address some or all of the topics within my Review. I will make that recommendation at any stage if I conclude that I am unable to reach sound conclusions on a topic because of the absence of a witness or a document, and that the Terms of Reference can only be met in full using the Statutory Inquiry powers. At present I remain satisfied that the Review process is, as Tynwald intended, an effective way to investigate and report on the pandemic response. I do not recommend at present that a Statutory Inquiry is required, but will keep that under active consideration until I report.
Chair’s Update on the Independent Covid Review — 20 July, 2023
Thank you to the many people who have assisted the Review’s work by providing information and material. I recognise that many people have given up their time to help the Review understand what happened during the pandemic, and that it has been a difficult process for some participants to relive their experiences. This project could not be carried out successfully without wide participation, and the Review team is very grateful for your efforts.
Progress of the Review
The Review is making good progress, and remains on track for delivering the report at the end of the year. We have been provided with a significant amount of material from Government, and there has been a good level of cooperation.
The intention was for Government to provide us with material by the end of January 2023. That did not happen, and we were still receiving significant amounts of material in June. We have adjusted our processes to deal with that delay.
We are still awaiting some significant information from some areas, most notably ManxCare, although I am assured that the CEO is seeking to address the problem.
The Review is being very well supported by the IOM project team led by Louise Quayle which is coordinating Government’s documentation, and with my agreement making limited redactions such as removing patient details before that material is shared with the Review.
The Review has gathered evidence from hundreds of people, including those who lost loved ones in the pandemic, current Government employees, ex-employees, representatives of the business community, charities, returning residents who stayed at the Comis and many others. Although the active public evidence-gathering phase of the Review has closed, any person who wishes to pass on information is encouraged to get in touch with me via the project manager so that we can make arrangements to hear from them.
Formal interviews will take place with the central decision-makers and advisors in September and October as planned. Arrangements are being made to provide those who have left Government with appropriate documentation to refresh their memories so that they can give the Review the best of their recollections. The interviews will not be conducted in public, but transcripts or extracts will be published alongside my report.
I am aware that there are some FOI requests being made of various Departments seeking material generated during the pandemic. I am unsure whether Departments are refusing FOI requests on the basis that releasing information will somehow compromise the Independent Review. Plainly any Department’s response to a FOI request is a matter for that Department, and I do not seek to involve myself in that. I do, however, want to put on record that I have no concern about responses to FOI requests interfering with my Review and I do not endorse any refusal of FOIs on that basis. I have written to the Review’s Sponsors to ask that this message is conveyed to Government Departments.
Cease and Desist Letters
It is an important principle that Government actively encourages cooperation with the Independent Review, and that principle has been reflected in correspondence with Government employees. That principle applies equally to those outside Government who may want to share information, analysis and concerns with the Review. Where a Department issues a cease and desist letter, or indeed any correspondence which seeks to restrict what individuals say about a topic which falls within my Review, it is important that it is made clear that Government is not seeking to restrict that person’s full and frank cooperation with the Review. I have asked for that message could be conveyed to the recipient(s) of any such correspondence and I have written to the Review’s Sponsors to ask that this message is conveyed to Government Departments.
The Tribunal Review
I am liaising with the chair of the separate Tribunal review, and sharing protocols and systems where appropriate. A memorandum of understanding will be created between us, so that work on topics which overlap is not duplicated.
Press Release: Public Engagement — 13 March, 2023
The Independent Isle of Man Covid Review is beginning its engagement with the public, which is a central part of the Review process. The Review wishes to hear from as many Manx people, groups and institutions as possible, to assist the Review in understanding how the pandemic affected the island. Members of the public and groups can participate in a number of different ways. They may be invited to join a focus group, attend a meeting or submit a report. They may speak to the Review team at a Public Drop-in meeting. All are welcome to make a written submission via a link on the website. Those who suffered bereavement are invited to speak privately with the Review Team if they wish to do so.
Over the last few months, the Review has been gathering written and verbal evidence from Government, public bodies, and Tynwald; a process which will continue alongside public engagement. The Review is also seeking information from individuals who have left Government.
The Review is looking at a wide range of topics including border controls, school closures, business support, care homes, policing, testing and so on. The views of those on the island who experienced the pandemic are of vital importance to the Review in assessing the Government’s response. The Chair of the Review, Kate Brunner KC, says: ‘please get in touch and tell us about how you were affected, what you think Government did well, and what you think could have been done better. I appreciate that thinking back to the pandemic will be difficult for some, but your views will really help the Review team to evaluate the island’s response, and make practical recommendations’.
Update on the Independent Covid Review — 12 January, 2023
Joint news release from the Isle of Man Government and Kate Brunner KC, Chair of the Independent Review into the Isle of Man Government’s Handling of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Work is continuing on the independent review into how the Isle of Man Government handled the Covid pandemic.
A dedicated website for the independent review has been launched at www.covidreview.im.
The independent review team is analysing the large body of documentation which is already in the public domain. An examination of additional documentation from Government departments and statutory boards has commenced, as well as meetings with civil and public servants.
The Isle of Man Government is continuing to assist the review’s independent chair Kate Brunner KC and her team.
All parts of the public service have been identifying, collating and categorising all information relating to the pandemic to prepare for its transfer to the review team in January 2023. This will give the review team a more complete picture of the Government’s response as well as support its interviews with current officers and ministers.
The Council of Ministers has issued a direction to Government departments and statutory boards which provides a legal basis on which these bodies can provide information to the review team. This direction will be laid before Tynwald in February 2023.
The review will also be seeking information from the public, non-government bodies, and previous officers and ministers.
It is expected that public engagement will start by June 2023. The Chair of the review aims to produce the final report by the end of 2023.
As Chair, Kate Brunner KC retains the discretion to recommend that a statutory inquiry rather than a review is required in relation to any part of the investigation.
Isle of Man Government – Jonathan Davies: firstname.lastname@example.org and 01624 685138
Independent Review Team – Rachael Geddes: email@example.com
Chair’s Progress Update — 1 January 2023
The Review Team has started work gathering and evaluating the wealth of publicly-available documentation, creating overview chronologies, and meeting people on the Isle of Man over several visits. The expert advisors have made a familiarisation visit to the island. The Terms of Reference have been amended and clarified by Tynwald at the Chair’s request.
The Review Team’s data platform has been set up, a folder and keyword classification has been put in place, and training provided.
A Liaison Officer, Louise Quayle, has been appointed to act as liaison between the Review Team and Isle of Man Government on administrative matters. The complex operation of Government Departments marshalling records relating to the pandemic is underway.
The Review Team had hoped to start evidence-gathering from individuals in November 2022. That was delayed by complications relating to the legal framework of the Review and associated data-protection considerations. It is vital that there is a robust data- protection structure in place before evidence-gathering begins to ensure that the personal data of Isle of Man residents is processed lawfully.
Following legal advice a decision has been made to split the Isle of Man Covid Review into two parts.
In Stage One, the Review Team will examine the documentation of Government Departments and Statutory Boards, and will speak to current civil servants and ministers. The legal framework behind Stage One of the Review has been refined in order to ensure that the Review is given a proper basis in law to require records from all Government Departments and Statutory Boards in line with the Terms of Reference. After liaising with the Chair, a Direction to Government Departments and Statutory Boards was issued by the Council of Ministers at the end of December 2022 which now provides a legal basis on which these bodies can provide information to the Review. Data-protection procedures for Stage One of the Review have also been finalised.
In Stage Two, the Review Team will seek information from the public, non-government bodies, and previous civil servants and ministers. Stage Two will start once the legal basis and data protection procedures for that stage of evidence-gathering have been implemented, which is expected to take place by June 2023.
Despite the delay, the Chair of the Review will still aim to produce the final report by the end of 2023.
Chair’s Progress Update — 11 October 2022
The set-up of a review of this size takes a considerable time, but is well underway. I have selected and appointed the Review’s counsel, operations director, expert advisor re. public health and expert advisor re. governance. I have also selected and appointed solicitors to the review. All of these appointments have been made independently of the Isle of Man Government, as is proper, but they have been ratified via the Chief Secretary. I may need a larger team in order to fulfil the terms of reference within the required timeframe, but I will make that decision once the scale of relevant documentation is better understood.
The review structure is being set up, including a website, document management system for government documentation, a document management and review system for other documentation, a portal for submissions and project-management software. There is some complexity around this process; as an example, the document management systems need to have the capability of having ‘reading rooms’ so that ex-civil servants can access specified documentation to prepare themselves for interview. The Review Team has been familiarising itself with the Isle of Man system of governance. The review methodology is being refined. Legal requirements relating to data protection and confidentiality are being addressed. We are working towards beginning evidence-gathering in November 2022.
The review’s findings will be based on evidence. However, the review process will not mirror a statutory inquiry’s quasi-court procedure of eliciting evidence in a public forum. Such a process would take years. It is, in my view, possible to conduct this review within the timeframe set in the terms of reference, to report by December 2023, through using a flexible approach and using a wide range of qualitative research methods. Those research methods are likely to include:
- Focus groups with a number of stakeholders
- Semi-structured conversations on a non-attributable basis with a variety of stakeholders
- Structured formal interviews with decision-makers, advisors, senior civil servants
- Case studies
- Desk-based research
- Inviting written submissions from the public, businesses and groups; Seeking witness statements from identified figures
- Analysing documentation held by government
- Analysing documentation held by individual and group stakeholders.
The review will be divided into topics, such as education, financial support, and the vaccine programme. For each of the topics within the review I will use the research methods which appear most likely to generate full, frank and reliable evidence, within the timeframe.
Press Release — 26 September 2022
Update on the independent review into the Isle of Man Government’s handling of the Covid Pandemic.
Following her appointment as Chair of an independent review of the Isle of Man Government’s handling of the Covid Pandemic, Kate Brunner KC, with her team, has visited the island for a familiarisation week.
It was an enjoyable and interesting time during which the team was made welcome.
Kate Brunner KC is being assisted by a small team of:
- Alex West, Barrister
- Paul Fletcher, Director of Operations
She will also be assisted by two experts; one each in governance and public health.
The initial review plan is to commence evidence-gathering from November 2022, and to complete the report and recommendations by the end of December 2023.
The purpose of the review is not to apportion blame but to identify good practice, lessons learned, and to make recommendations for change, if any is required.
The review will be robust and fully independent.
Unlike a statutory inquiry that would gather evidence by way of public hearings, the methodology for independent reviews is entirely flexible. Reviews generally use a wide range of methods of evidence gathering and do not generally follow the format of court-like hearings.
Between now and November, before starting to gather evidence, the panel will be setting-up the structure of the review, to include such matters as setting up document management and data-protection systems.
In order to evaluate government decisions, the review will gather information from the Government, Tynwald and their various officers and committees. In order to evaluate these decisions, it is vital that the review fully understands the impact which they had on the public, businesses and services. The review will want to gather information from the public including for example from individuals who were particularly affected by the border closure, from businesses, from school heads, healthcare workers and so on.
The review will invite submissions from all members of the public who wish to communicate with us, and details of how to do this will be publicised in due course.