Grenfell Tower fire: Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick 'doubtful' public inquiry will satisfy residents

'I've been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development'

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Thursday 29 June 2017 19:04
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Passers-by look at posters and messages of condolence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire
Passers-by look at posters and messages of condolence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire

The judge leading the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has said he is doubtful that the scope of the investigation will be broad enough to satisfy all survivors.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick met with survivors at the site of the north Kensington blaze, but he said afterwards: “I’ve been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development in order to make recommendations about how this sort of thing can be prevented in future."

He added: “I’m well aware the residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can fully understand why they would want that. Whether my inquiry is the right way in which to achieve that I’m more doubtful."

Pilgrim Tucker, a housing campaigner who has worked with Grenfell Action Group, said Sir Martin told survivors during the meeting the inquiry’s terms would be “very narrow”.

“Judge telling residents inquiry will be very narrow. Their concerns are being ignored. This is completely unacceptable,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Theresa May has broken her promise to residents that they'd be consulted on inquiry. An insult to them. Just disgraceful.”

It comes just days after a housing collective sent a letter to Theresa May demanding survivors be consulted over the terms of reference of the inquiry and the choice of the chair, the counsel to the inquiry and composition of the advisory panel.

But Downing Street rejected the request, saying: “We’ve been clear from the outset that we wish the residents to be consulted on the terms of reference of the inquiry. As for the appointment of a judge in a public inquiry, it follows a very specific set of rules. Essentially, the Lord Chief Justice recommends someone to the Prime Minister, or whoever that inquiry is reporting back to – in this instance it’s the Prime Minister.”

Yvette Williams, campaign organiser for Justice4Grenfell, said residents had been led to believe they would have their say.

She said: “We were led to understand that there would be a consultation around any judge to be appointed so the fact that appointment has gone ahead is not useful.

“They have learnt no lessons from anywhere about community engagement, it's just shoddy, it’s just process, no substance.”

Ms Williams earlier complained that residents had not even been made aware of Sir Martin’s visit.

“The only information I got was that a call was made to the church to book a meeting room. We’ve received nothing in writing, some survivors don't even know that meeting was happening,” she said. “I’ve had a survivor call me today, he didn't know anything about the meeting.”

The 70-year-old's appointment proved controversial after it emerged he once ruled in favour of Westminster council to rehouse a homeless mother-of-five 50 miles away in Milton Keynes. The issue is of particular importance to survivors of the north Kensington blaze after the Government backtracked on its promise to rehouse all victims within the same borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Ms Williams said residents felt “imposed on” and angry that their request to be consulted on the appointment of the judge had not been considered.

She also claimed survivors had been given no option to be accompanied to the meeting with Sir Martin by legal representatives or support workers, and the meeting had been sprung upon them with little notice.

Grenfell Legal Support, a group advocating for fair legal representation for the survivors of the blaze, said: “A true and fair inquiry would be one where all parties are consulted at every stage of the process.”

The controversy surrounding Sir Martin’s appointment stems from a 2014 ruling against Titina Nzolameso, which saw her housed 50 miles away from her Westminster home.

The decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court but Ms Nzolameso’s lawyer said at the time the decision “sets a terrible precedent for local authorities to engage in social cleansing of the poor on a mass scale”.

The ruling has sparked widespread concern among the community over fears Grenfell survivors will be rehoused outside of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has said it may also have to consider neighbouring areas.

Radical Housing Network, a network of housing campaigns from across London, said the judge’s appointment was “deeply distressing”.

“The appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as the judge in the Grenfell inquiry is deeply distressing. [He] has a track record of facilitating the social cleansing of London,” the group said.

“The Government are clearly preparing a stitch-up, trying to put a judge at the heart of the establishment in charge of the inquiry, who supports the inhumane housing policies which have led to Grenfell.”

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