Grenfell inquiry report due at end of month
IN AN update, the inquiry has stated that the first phase report from chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick will be published on 30 October, a date described as ‘deeply frustrating’ by survivors and the bereaved.
The inquiry confirmed speculation from news outlets including The Guardian on the publication of the first phase report, stating on its website that it had written to core participants to state that Sir Martin had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the report’s submission. Mr Johnson wrote back to confirm that ‘he would like’ the report to be ‘laid before Parliament and published before the end of October’, and it is set to be published on Wednesday 30 October.
On its site, the inquiry said that ‘in line with’ requirements under the Inquiry Rules 2006, it has to provide a copy of the first phase report to all core participants and legal representatives ‘in advance of its publication’, and that Sir Martin ‘believes that it is very important that those most affected by the fire have the opportunity to read and absorb the key findings’ before they are ‘made public’.
He also noted that he wished to ‘avoid a situation’ whereby the bereaved, survivors and residents ‘learn of any of the contents […] as a consequence of media coverage arising from premature or unauthorised disclosure’, with the report to only be made available to core participants ‘at least 36 hours prior to publication under a strict embargo’.
The Guardian noted that the inquiry’s release ‘a day before [the] Brexit deadline’ of 31 October had been described by survivors and the bereaved as ‘deeply frustrating’, as this raised ‘fears [that] important lessons will be overshadowed by the possibility of a no-deal Brexit’. Grenfell United, the survivors and bereaved group, demanded the report be released earlier as to ‘publish the report on 30 October risks burying it in Brexit’.
In a letter to Sir Martin, the group stressed that the timing had ‘caused upset to many families’, and added: ‘This is the most significant constitutional moment for our country in living memory. Laying the report in parliament on 30 October will guarantee that the report will not receive the attention it deserves.
‘We expect that your report will contain substantial findings, and make recommendations of the utmost importance. Recommendations that will bring in changes that could save lives. These must have an opportunity to be properly considered and debated in the media and parliament, if there is any hope that they will be taken up by those in authority.’
Last year, it began looking at the ‘factual narrative’, with expert witnesses describing various safety failures and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After resuming, a London Fire Brigade (LFB) fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans were not able to be found in the lobby of the building. It then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.
In September 2018, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before Ms Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite an LFB presentation created only a year before. Then, it heard two different experts note that flames spread in ‘just over 10 minutes’ to the outside, and that cladding issues ‘have been known for decades’.
In November 2018, the inquiry heard that the architectural ‘crown’ of cladding was ‘instrumental’ in the fire’s spread, and the fire was ‘most likely started by overheated wiring’ within a fridge freezer. After that, it heard that LFB had ‘failed residents and firefighters’, and that a post Grenfell audit of the building’s management company found only ‘minor weaknesses’ in its approach.
Grenfell United, an organisation for the bereaved, survivors and community, responded: ‘It is only right that serious questions are being asked of the LFB. It’s been 27 months since the fire that killed 72 people. The first inquiry report is yet to be published and so far there have been no arrests. We have been very patient but in the months ahead we need to see organisations and individuals being brought to account, lessons being learned and changes being made.’
Lawyers urged inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to ‘conclude’ that LFB ‘breached its policies and legal duties in failing to plan or train for the foreseeable event of a fire such as that at Grenfell’, with QC Danny Friedman stating that shortcomings in 999 call handling had ‘undeniably contributed to people dying’, with callers ‘being offered the choice whether to stay or go when there was none’.
The first phase report is ‘due’ to be published in October, and last December, the second phase was reported to be ‘unlikely to start’ until the end of 2019 because there are ‘more than 20,000 documents still to disclose’. In May, a letter sent to core participants stated that Sir Martin will not make any ‘urgent’ fire safety recommendations in his report on the first phase.
Earlier this year, reports on the refurbishment and the cladding and insulation were released, while any prosecutions are ‘unlikely’ before 2021. Sir Martin’s first report will ‘not make recommendations on a range of fire safety issues’, despite inquiry experts warning that ‘urgent and very far-reaching reform’ is needed.
Two further experts were added by previous Prime Minister Theresa May to the second phase in June, and last month the Metropolitan Police interviewed LFB under caution as a corporate body over the fire in June 2017, in relation to ‘health and safety offences’.