Judge in Grenfell Tower fire probe doubts the scope of inquiry can satisfy survivors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 2:45pm

A retired judge appointed to lead a public inquiry into the London tower block fire on Thursday said he was “doubtful” survivors will be satisfied by the scope of the probe into the deadly blaze.

Martin Moore-Bick was named by Prime Minister Theresa May as the head of the probe into the inferno which engulfed Grenfell Tower on June 14, leaving at least 80 people dead.

On Thursday morning Moore-Bick visited the tower, speaking to the emergency services before meeting with survivors and local residents at a nearby church.

While he said the meeting had been “very useful”, he cautioned that the scope of the inquiry was limited to the start of the fire and its rapid development, in order to make recommendations on how to prevent a repeat of the catastrophe.

“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,” Moore-Bick said.

Public inquiries can take years and May has pushed for an interim report ahead of the full conclusions, which Moore-Bick said he hoped to produce within a year.

Residents have expressed anger at the authorities’ handling of the fire, leading protesters on June 16 to storm the town hall which manages the social housing block.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea subsequently announced a meeting scheduled for Thursday would be held in private, “in the light of the risk of disruption” and owing to security concerns.

Hundreds of London council flats hurriedly evacuated over fire safety concerns in aftermath of Grenfell Tower blaze

But the council adjourned the meeting after a court overturned its decision to ban journalists and the public, including Grenfell residents, from attending.

It claimed media attendance would “prejudice” the forthcoming inquiry.

Seamus Dooley, the National Union of Journalists’ acting general secretary, said the body was “deeply disturbed” by the move to ban the press.

The Radical Housing Network, a network of campaigns fighting for housing justice across London, blasted the council for “treating those they represent with contempt”.

While police continued their search for traces of victims in the gutted tower block, the west London community gathered on Thursday for the funeral of 65-year-old victim Tony Disson.

A hearse was pulled by four black horses with white plumes on their heads, while Disson’s family followed in two Mercedes cars topped with flowers.

As the cortege passed onlookers paused to show their respects.

In a statement, Disson’s relatives said they “miss him terribly”.

“[We] are pulling together as a family and trying to stay strong under these tragic circumstances.”

Around 80 people are known to have died in the fire, which spread at shocking speed through the 24-storey tower block, and the number is expected to rise further.

“We are many months from being able to provide the number of people who accurately represents the loss of life at Grenfell Tower,” police detective Fiona McCormack said on Wednesday.

Victims identified so far include a six-month old baby, her eight-year-old sister and their parents, who lived on the 20th floor. The baby was found in her dead mother’s arms.

As part of an emergency fund, the government earlier this month announced each household whose home was destroyed will receive at least £5,500 (US$7,140).

Police on Thursday said a 52-year-old man had been arrested over fraudulently trying to claim clash, by allegedly lying about living at Grenfell Tower and falsely claiming he had lost a wife and child in the blaze.

Tests after Grenfell Tower fire reveal cladding on 600 UK buildings ‘combustible’

“We will robustly investigate any information about anyone who seeks to capitalise on the suffering of so many,” said McCormack, while explaining true victims could come forward without fear of immigration questions.

Checks are underway on hundreds of high-rises in Britain fitted with the same cladding which encased Grenfell Tower. So far all 137 buildings tested have failed the fire safety checks.

The US supplier of cladding used at Grenfell Tower, Arconic, on Monday stopped sales of the material for high-rises.