Public inquiry into Grenfell Tower fire formally opened

Sep 15, 2017, 00:29
Public inquiry into Grenfell Tower fire formally opened

A public inquiry into London's Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people in June, will officially open with a hearing on Thursday.

The head of the public inquiry into the Grenfell fire Sir Martin Moore-Bick has vowed to pursue all avenues of enquiry that he deems relevant in the investigation into the causes of the tragedy, even if his recommendations could be used as the basis for future criminal prosecutions.

"At the inquiry opening, Moore-Bick said: "[It] can and will provide answers to the pressing questions as to how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London". The statement is likely to last around 45 minutes and will be held at The Grand Connaught Rooms in central London. Simultaneously, the inquiry published on its website a "list of issues" outlining its thinking on the main objectives of its investigations.

The probe will examine how the fire started, regulations of high-rise buildings, and the actions of Kensington and Chelsea Council.

The judge noted that "many thousands of documents" that are expected to be presented as evidence during the inquiry will be made publicly available online.

Moore-Bick opened the public inquiry saying he wants to "discover where the truth lies". "If necessary", he said, "I shall not hesitate to make use of it".

Moore-Bick said he was aware that "former residents of the tower and local people feel a great sense of anger and betrayal".

The inquiry will be broken down into two phases.

National building and fire regulations will come under scrutiny, after tests on similar cladding installed elsewhere in the country found it was highly flammable. It will also look at whether residents' warnings were ignored.

But during his opening address, Sir Martin said the inquiry would address a broad range of issues, including the "motivations" for fitting the building with cladding that has been blamed for spreading the flames. He didn't respond when a lawyer representing some of the victims asked a question.

Sir Martin rejected calls for survivors to be included as one of his team of assessors telling the inquiry it would "risk undermining my impartiality".

The retired judge was heckled by residents at the conclusion of his statement after he refused to take a "quick request on behalf of survivors" from Michael Mansfield QC.

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, described the session as a "cold and clinical process".

Speaking to reporters outside the hotel, she said that "sitting in a ballroom dripping with chandeliers says it all, actually, that we are from a different world and we are going to do this for you, little people".

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