A public inquiry is a formal tribunal hearing, where the decision maker is a traffic commissioner. The three main types of public inquiry are those held to determine license applications, reviews of operating centres and those held for regulatory reasons.
Typically held in person, similarly to a court or other tribunal, however on occasion, a traffic commissioner may decide to hold an inquiry remotely with all parties attending virtually.
A traffic commissioner may decide that public inquiries are necessary in order to clarify information that has been gathered and raised concerns. Additionally, a traffic commissioner must hold a public inquiry if they conder taking regulatory action against an existing license and the operator requests a hearing.
If an operator is called to an inquiry, they will receive a letter detailing information about why a public inquiry is being held and the legislation it has been called under, as well as any evidence the commissioner is considering. Any party called to an inquiry can request representation at the hearing, which can be a qualified advocate but as no duty solicitor is available, it is the responsibility of the operator to seek independent advice as soon as possible after receiving the notification letter.
In a public inquiry, a traffic commissioner only needs to be satisfied that the case has been proved on the balance of probabilities that a particular thing happened. In most cases, interested parties will be informed of the outcome of the inquiry on the day and this will be confirmed in writing within a few days. In some cases, the traffic commissioner might want to consider their decision further, in the possibility of this happening, the written decision will be sent usually within 28 days.
For the full guide on public inquiries: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-public-inquiries/a-guide-to-public-inquiries