- 1. Legal career
Heather Carol Hallett, Baroness Hallett, is a retired English judge of the Court of Appeal and a crossbench life peer. The first woman to chair the Bar Council and the fifth woman to sit in the Court of Appeal, Hallett led the independent inquest into the 7/7 bombings. In December 2021, she was announced as the chair of the public inquiry into the UK Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 29 June 2022, the Government accepted Baroness Hallett's proposed terms of reference for the inquiry, with minor changes suggested by the devolved administrations.
Hallett was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1972, specialising in criminal law. She successfully defended a stepfather wrongly accused of murder in an early "cot death" related trial. She was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1989 and a Bencher of Inner Temple in 1993. She was the first woman to chair the Bar Council, in 1998, having been vice-chair in 1997, and became Treasurer of the Inner Temple in 2011.
Hallett was appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court in 1989, then a deputy High Court judge in 1995, before becoming a full-time judge of the High Court in 1999, assigned to the Queen's Bench Division. As a High Court judge, she received the customary appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 21 July 1999. She was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2005. She was appointed a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission in January 2006, as a representative of the judiciary.
Hallett was chosen in 2009 to act as coroner in the inquest of the 52 fatal victims of the 7/7 bombings. She was widely praised for her empathy towards the inquest witnesses. She began a four-year term as Vice-President of the Queen's Bench Division on 3 October 2011, succeeding Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd. In May 2012 in an appeal hearing she quashed the murder conviction of 24-year-old Sam Hallam as unsafe after he had spent seven years in prison; he was one of the youngest victims of a UK miscarriage of justice.
In February 2013, she was described as the 8th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. In November 2013, she was appointed Vice-President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, succeeding Lord Hughes.
In March 2014, she was appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to carry out an independent review of the administrative scheme by which 'letters of assurance' were sent to those known as the 'on the runs'.
In December 2021, she was announced as the chair of the public inquiry into the UK government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July 2022, the Terms of Reference for the public inquiry into the UK government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic were agreed by Boris Johnson, and he launched the Public Inquiry.