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The inquiry team

Meet the key people involved in the Thirlwall Inquiry.

Chair – The Rt Hon Lady Justice Thirlwall

Lady Justice Thirlwall is a senior Court of Appeal judge. On 4 September 2023 she was appointed to chair the inquiry into the events at the Countess of Chester hospital by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

She was called to the Bar in 1982, practised as a barrister and became a QC in April 1999. She was appointed a recorder (part time judge) in 2000 having been an assistant recorder from 1998, sitting in criminal, civil and family cases. She has been a Bencher of Middle Temple since 2008. She was appointed a High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division) in 2010. She presided over civil trials, criminal trials, applications for judicial review and sat from time to time in the Court of Appeal, in both criminal and civil cases. Between 2011 and 2015, she was the Presiding Judge of the Midland Circuit. She was also Chair of Magistrates Training and a member of the Board of the Judicial College. In 2016 she joined the Sentencing Council. She was appointed to the Court of Appeal in February 2017 and appointed Deputy Senior Presiding Judge in October 2017. She was the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales from December 2019 and had significant responsibility for the response of the judiciary to the Covid pandemic.

She is married with two grown up children.

Counsel to the Inquiry – Rachel Langdale KC

Rachel Langdale KC is Head of Chambers at 7BR, where she specialises in undertaking Children law cases (public, private and international), Judicial Review and Public Inquiry work. She was appointed as a Queen’s Counsel in 2009, a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 2011 and was a member of the Bar Council Ethics Committee for many years, including chairing that Committee between 2017-2020.

Rachel was leading counsel for a core participant in the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry and has acted for local authorities and individuals in inquiries relating to safeguarding and children in care. Most recently she was leading counsel in the Lambeth investigation (2018-2021), which formed part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Solicitor to the Inquiry – Tim Suter

Tim Suter is a partner at Fieldfisher LLP, and has been appointed as Solicitor to the Inquiry for its set up phase. He has extensive experience of advising on independent inquiries, investigations and inquests. Tim recently acted as the solicitor to Manchester Arena Inquiry. He has also previously acted as solicitor to the Hillsborough Inquests and Birmingham 1974 pub bombings Inquests and as deputy solicitor to the inquests into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005 and the public inquiry into the death of the Russian dissident, Alexander Litvinenko.

Secretary to the Inquiry – Lorna Yates

Working with Lady Justice Thirlwall to implement her decisions, the Secretariat, led by Lorna Yates, and the wider team are responsible for the administration of the Inquiry. Lorna acts as the main contact between the Inquiry and the Department for Health and Social Care, and helps to ensure that the Chair and the Inquiry’s work is independent from the government. Lorna has previously worked at a number of public Inquiries, including the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, the Jermaine Baker Inquiry and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.