Two further experts added to Grenfell inquiry

Two further experts added to Grenfell inquiry

PROFESSOR NABEEL Hamdi and Thouria Istephan have been added to the inquiry by Prime Minister Theresa May, to assist in the inquiry’s second phase.

The Guardian reported on the government announcement that Professor Hamdi – an ‘international expert in housing and planning’ – and Thouria Istephan, a partner at Foster + Partners ‘with responsibility for construction regulations, would be added to the inquiry’s team. Mrs May appointed the two ‘having initially rejected survivors’ requests to widen the oversight of the inquiry’, with both to join the inquiry from October following the publication of its initial report.

Both will help chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick ‘unravel the events leading up to the disaster’, such as the tower’s refurbishment with combustible cladding, and survivors and bereaved campaign group Grenfell United welcomed the announcement in a statement. It commented: ‘This announcement is another step forward in our campaign for truth and justice. We campaigned hard to secure a panel at our inquiry and thanks to support from 150,000 people across the country, today we’ve got one.

‘We fought for this because we are certain that, at every layer, this inquiry will uncover practices that led to the deaths of our loved ones and neighbours, and continue to put lives at risk. It is important for us and for everyone in this country that this inquiry gets to the truth and delivers change, so that Grenfell never happens again.’

Mrs May added: ‘I am confident these new appointments will ensure the Inquiry panel has the diversity of skills and experience necessary for the scope and complexity of issues to be investigated by Phase 2 of the Inquiry’s work. This will help get to the truth of what happened, deliver justice and ensure that a tragedy like the fire in Grenfell Tower can never happen again.’

Sir Martin also stated: ‘I welcome the appointment of Professor Hamdi and Ms Istephan, and look forward to working with them on Phase 2 of the Inquiry.’

Last month, a letter sent to core participants stated that Sir Martin will not make any ‘urgent’ fire safety recommendations in his report on the inquiry’s first phase. Last year, it began looking at the ‘factual narrative’, with expert witnesses describing various safety failures and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After resuming post break, a 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 last year, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Dany 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, 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 freezerAfter 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.

In December, the second phase was reported to be ‘unlikely to start’ until the end of 2019, according to Sir Martin, because there are ‘more than 20,000 documents still to disclose’, with this ‘probably not’ completed before this autumn. This second phase will examine the ‘wider issues surrounding the fire’.

Earlier in 2019, reports on the refurbishment and the cladding and insulation were released, while any prosecutions over the fire 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, and will ‘most likely’ not be published until October.