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Grenfell Tower fire: Campaigners hit out at 'completely inappropriate' appointment of public inquiry judge

'They have learnt no lessons from anywhere about community engagement, it's just shoddy - it’s just process and no substance'

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Friday 30 June 2017 08:41 BST
Sir Martin Moore-Bick looks at floral tributes left for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, London
Sir Martin Moore-Bick looks at floral tributes left for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, London (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

Resident action groups have hit out at the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick to lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.

Calling his appointment “deeply distressing” and “completely inappropriate”, a collective of groups representing the survivors said it was outrageous that residents had not been consulted before the decision was made.

The retired Court of Appeal judge did meet with some residents close to the tower where at least 80 people died.

But Yvette Williams, campaign organiser for Justice4Grenfell, told The Independent that others had not even been made aware of the meeting.

“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 has proved controversial after it emerged he once ruled that Westminster council could rehouse a homeless mother-of-five 50 miles away in Milton Keynes.

His 2014 ruling against Titina Nzolameso was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court but her 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”.

This has raised fears among survivors that a similar thing could happen to them, after the Government backtracked on its promise to rehouse all victims in the same borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

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

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.

It comes just days after a resident action collective sent a letter to Theresa May demanding that 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.”

Ms Williams 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.”

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.”

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-Pick as the judge in the Grenfell inquiry is deeply distressing. Sir Moore-Pick 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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