Lord Pitchford has Motor Neurone Disease

Lord Justice Pitchford

Lord Justice Pitchford

Lord Pitchford, chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing, has motor neurone disease (MND).

The incurable degenerative condition damages parts of the nervous system. As it progresses, symptoms spread to other parts of the body and the condition becomes more debilitating. Life expectancy for about half of those with the condition is three years from the start of symptoms.

However, some people may live for up to 10 years, and in rarer circumstances even longer (for example, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed in 1963).

Eventually, a person with motor neurone disease may be unable to move. Communicating, swallowing and breathing may also become very difficult. In up to 15% of cases, MND is associated with frontotemporal dementia that can affect personality and behaviour.

His diagnosis has implications for the long-term process of the public inquiry. Last week the Inquiry conceded it was ‘increasingly unlikely that the Inquiry will undertake evidence hearings in 2017’, projecting it to begin in 2018, four years after the Home Office announced it.

Today they Inquiry issued a statement explaining:

‘Sir Christopher is keen to continue for as long as he is able to do so, and the Inquiry and Home Secretary are committed to supporting him to do so. Alongside the continuation of our work, contingency arrangements are being made for the appointment of a further judicial office holder as an additional panel member with a view to that panel member succeeding Sir Christopher as chairman of the Inquiry at an appropriate time.’

Lord Pitchford added

‘I very much regret that my diagnosis and the progression of my physical symptoms mean that I shall not be able to complete the work of the Inquiry. However, I wish to assure the Inquiry’s core participants and the public that the Inquiry’s work continues unabated and that, with the support of the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice, for which I am grateful, the transitional arrangements that are being put in place will ensure its continuity when the time comes for me to step down as Chairman.’

Our sympathies are with Christopher Pitchford and his family.

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