Public inquiry

official review of events or actions ordered by a government body

A public inquiry (or tribunal of inquiry) is an official review ordered by a government body.

It is used in many common law countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada. The idea is also used in many other countries, perhaps not with the same title. It is an expression of democracy, that in some cases people and groups should be able to have their voice heard directly. The issues at stake may be of a local kind, or special to a particular group of people.

A public inquiry differs from a Royal Commission. A public inquiry accepts evidence, conducts its hearings in public and deals with a specific occurrence. Interested members of the public and organisations may make oral or written submissions, and listen to oral evidence given by other parties.

Research on the effects of public inquiries suggests they may not do much to change people's minds.[1][2] However, it is normal for a public enquiry to be about some controversy. That is the point of the exercise.


  1. Sulitzeanu-Kenan R & Y. Holzman-Gazit. 2016. Form and Content: Institutional Preferences and Public Opinion in a Crisis Inquiry, Administration & Society 48(1): 3-30 Archived 2016-02-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Sulitzeanu-Kenan, Raanan (2006). "If they get it right: an experimental test of the effects of the appointment and reports of UK public inquiries". Public Administration. 84 (3): 623–653. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9299.2006.00605.x.