Inquiry chief walks out on residents’ lawyer in ‘cold and clinical’ launch of fire probe
GRENFELL Tower survivors were left with little hope of justice yesterday after they were “disrespectfully” snubbed at the launch of the inquiry into the devastating inferno.
Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick promised the packed gathering at Grand Connaught Rooms in Holborn, central London, that the probe “can and will provide answers.”
However the retired judge, who was once accused of “social cleansing” during a previous case, rejected calls for survivors to serve on the panel, claiming to do so would “risk undermining my impartiality.”
And he snubbed a request for lawyer Michael Mansfield QC to speak on behalf of the survivors he represents.
The barrister, who also represented the Hillsborough families, asked: “Sir, before departing, I wonder if I may make a quick request on behalf of survivors?”
But the judge ignored the request as he exited the room to shouts of “Hello?” and “Rubbish” from angry residents.
Mr Moore-Bick did find the time however to talk about the importance of using the correct font sizes for legal submissions.
Mr Mansfield later called the snub “disrespectful to survivors” and said he hoped to request a further meeting with the judge and core participants.
Justice for Grenfell co-ordinator Yvette Williams criticised Mr Moore-Bick for failing to appoint a community adviser to the panel’s top team and ignoring Mr Mansfield’s question.
She said: “At the end, to not even give 15 minutes to questions is appalling.
“So I’m hoping that the Civil Service advisers have gone back to him now and said actually that was a bit of a faux pas.”
The two-part inquiry will examine the fire’s causes, the response of the council and the tower’s refurbishment, Mr Moore-Bick said.
But Labour’s Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad expressed fears after the launch that the inquiry would not provide a “full answer” for those affected.
“There has been huge anxiety about how this [the probe] would happen,” she said.
“A lot of anxiety — and some people have literally come out here today for the first time.
“They made a huge effort to come here and then what do we have? It was a very cold, clinical process and then the judge got up and walked out.
“We are not going to get justice from this.”
Ms Dent Coad also described the venue — a grand room lit with chandeliers — as “tasteless.”
She said: “It was very strange for us to come to a ballroom with glittering chandeliers to start this inquiry.
“I thought it was quite inappropriate and kind of set the tone between the ‘us and them’ aspect. I don’t think that went down very well with a lot of people.”
Tottenham MP David Lammy also expressed concerns about the lack of community representation on the panel, and said that the terms of reference should have included wider issues around social housing in Britain.
Downing Street, which has sought to strictly limit the inquiry’s scope, claimed it would “get to the truth of what happened” and help prevent similar catastrophes in the future.