Grenfell Inquiry urged to ensure effective participation of bereaved, survivors and residents

By agency reporter
August 24, 2018

Key organisations representing the bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell Tower have written to the Inquiry team, calling for effective participation in the Public Inquiry. The letter, dated 22 August 2018, reads as follows:

Dear Inquiry Team, 
 
We are writing in relation to the Grenfell Public Inquiry. The progress of the Inquiry to date has raised a number of concerns regarding the proper involvement of those most affected by the disaster.  INQUEST and the following signatories are calling on the Inquiry to ensure effective participation of the bereaved, survivors and residents, as required under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, when it resumes in September 2018. The need for effective participation will be brought into sharp relief when bereaved family members, survivors of the fire, and displaced residents start to give evidence at the beginning of October.
 
To ensure effective participation, we are urging; 1. The Inquiry to move to a more suitable local venue as soon as possible. 2. The Inquiry to allow lawyers representing bereaved, survivors and residents to ask questions in person as and when the need arises. 3. The Inquiry team to make full disclosure of all relevant material before the Public Inquiry resumes in September 2018. 
 
The commemoration hearings at the beginning of the Inquiry placed bereaved families at the heart of the proceedings. The Inquiry team treated those in attendance with respect and sensitivity. Prior to this point, trust and confidence in the process was lacking, and this appeared to be a turning point.  
 
After those hearings, the Inquiry changed venue to Holborn Bars. Concerns have been raised about this venue from the outset. There are fears that this venue is insufficient in addressing the needs of the bereaved, survivors and residents. Holborn is remote from the community where the disaster occurred, and it is difficult for many of those affected to attend. The main Inquiry room is too small and there are not enough breakout rooms. There is now a significant lack of community attendance at the Inquiry, and at the screenings at the Notting Hill Methodist Church. After considerable delay, the Inquiry team announced the specifications needed for the venue on 19th June 2018. It is however apparent that the current venue of Holborn Bars only partially fits these specifications. 
 
Bereaved, survivors and residents naturally have some concerns that their lawyers have so far not asked questions in person on their behalf, though the specific circumstances as regards to this stage of the inquiry are recognised. They are keen that where it becomes appropriate for their lawyers to put questions directly, this is allowed. Not allowing this will again raise the issue of effective participation and trust in the process risks further diminishing.
 
There continues to be acute concerns expressed regarding disclosure. We note that the Inquiry is under a duty to make full and prompt disclosure of all relevant evidence to those affected by the disaster and notes that such disclosure has been made in other similar inquiries and investigations in recent times. Justice can only be achieved by transparency and proper disclosure. There are notorious examples of where a failure of disclosure has resulted in miscarriages of justice. Full disclosure enables lawyers representing bereaved, survivors and residents to raise proper questions of witnesses and facilitates a collaborative inquiry where those most affected can effectively participate. Full disclosure also helps allay unjustified rumours and suspicions and aids the efficiency of the process.
 
It is unfortunate that some bereaved, survivors and residents now feel that there is a disconnection between them and the Inquiry process. This needs to be rectified. 
 
It is of fundamental importance that justice must be done, but also that it must be seen to be done. We have stated from the outset that bereaved, survivors and residents must be at the heart of proceedings. Meaningful engagement will enable the Inquiry to get to the truth and will ensure legitimacy of this Inquiry process. 
 
Thank you for considering these issues. Please note, in the interests of transparency, we will be placing a copy of this letter on our website. We look forward to receiving your response.
 
Yours sincerely,

INQUEST 

Grenfell United

Justice4Grenfell 

Relative Justice

Humanity for Grenfell

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:“Many of the bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell feel that there is a disconnection between them and the Inquiry process. This needs to be rectified.

"Effective participation can be aided by moving the Inquiry to a more suitable local venue, and ensuring full disclosure of all relevant material before the Inquiry resumes.

"We have stated from the outset that those most affected must be at the heart of proceedings. Meaningful engagement will enable the Inquiry to get to the truth and will ensure legitimacy of this process.”

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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