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Grenfell Tower Fire

People Don't Trust the Grenfell Inquiry and It Hasn't Even Started

Campaigners are questioning the record of the retired judge who will lead the inquiry.

by Patrick Heardman
30 June 2017, 11:22am

Protesters after the Grenfell Tower Fire (Photo by Simon Childs)

Thursday marked the latest setback for Grenfell Tower survivors and their families; a retired judge who campaigners accused of facilitating "social cleansing" has been appointed to lead the inquiry into the disaster that took their homes away.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick is a graduate of Christ's College Cambridge and has a legal career spanning almost 50 years. He was "called to the bar" in 1969, and progressed to the High Court in 1995, receiving a knighthood in the process under John Major's Conservative government. Having retired in 2016, Sir Martin will dust off his wig and lead the Grenfell inquiry.

With the official death toll standing at 80, and with 130 residents still thought to be missing, the desire for answers and culpability is overwhelming. Sir Martin's record has caused a lot of concern for survivors and their prospects of being rehoused in their home borough. In November of 2014 he ruled that a single mother-of-five should be housed 50 miles from her home. Titina Nzolameso was made homeless when Westminster Council failed to provide her with temporary accommodation, and her children were subsequently taken from her care. The decision was ultimately overruled in 2015 by the Supreme Court, but obviously the decision isn't inspiring huge confidence in the inquiry.

For Radical Housing Network, a London-based association of groups fighting for housing justice, Sir Martin has a "track record of facilitating the social cleansing of London". They claim that, "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." The RHN are equally critical of the appointment of Sir Ken Knight as the chair of the safety panel, a man they say has "previously opposed fitting sprinklers in tower blocks and recommended £200 million in cuts to the fire service".

Families were not consulted before the appointments. Residents surrounding the tower reportedly said they were "shocked and disappointed" by Theresa May's failure to consult them on the public inquiry, despite previously claiming she would.

This has echoes of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, a public farce which has now had to move onto its fourth chairman. Michael Mansfield QC, a "leading barrister", has said it's "unbelievable that lessons are not learned" from this particular case.


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Confidence in the inquiry to get justice is low. Public inquiries result in recommendations, which the government can choose to act on or not. The recent Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war saw no criminal prosecutions. The suggestions of the Leveson inquiry into press standards were not acted upon by the then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

The tribute wall near the site of the disaster shows the local community are keen to not let history repeat itself with regards to Grenfell. One message reads, "Justice for Grenfell. Jail those responsible." Poignantly, it was only this week that charges were finally brought against those involved in the Hillsborough disaster, 26 years after the event itself.

On Thursday night, angry local residents gathered outside Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall demanding entry, having been barred from a council meeting. The meeting was cancelled anyway, as council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown claimed that the presence of journalists would "prejudice" the forthcoming inquiry. "We want to ensure our meetings do not descend into informal inquiries without all the facts to hand," he said. Heaven forbid there should be any scrutiny outside of the inquiry, which survivors already don't trust.

At the outbreak of the Grenfell fire, emergency services ran toward danger. They were willing to put their own lives at risk to save residents. Any subsequent inquiries or inquests into this atrocity should carry the same sense of humility and absolute commitment to the victims at its core.

But from what we've seen so far, it's not clear that's going to be the case.

@PatrickBenjam