Inquiry has not delivered what it should deliver say families and further lives could be lost without recommendations being implemented
On the second anniversary of the Grenfell tower fire, survivors of the disaster and bereaved families are calling for urgent fire safety recommendations to be made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and say they are being side-lined by the Inquiry and that their voices are not being heard.
Lawyers acting for many of the bereaved, survivors and residents have been urging the Inquiry for over nine months that there are urgent recommendations which need not wait until the publication of the Inquiry’s Phase 1 report.
In response the Inquiry Chairman set a timetable for legal submissions, and expert evidence on the issue. There was due to be a public hearing about this in February 2019. The legal submissions were made, but the hearing never took place. The Inquiry stated that all these matters would be dealt with in its Phase 1 report, now due in October 2019. The Inquiry indicated that because different views, and expert opinion, had been expressed there were no urgent steps which were so obvious that they should be made now rather than waiting for the Phase 1 report.
Lawyers for the families asked that those experts’ reports be made public, but that request was denied.
Clarita Ghavimi, who escaped from the 10th floor on the night of the fire, said:
“We have been asking the Inquiry since last August to make urgent recommendations without waiting for the Phase 1 report to be finally published.
“We know that many issues will need more expert evidence and further investigation. But some things can be done now – a full review of the ‘Stay Put’ policy by the Fire Brigade; basic safety measures in high rise blocks, like clear signs, clearly marked floor numbers, effective emergency lighting, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. These steps do not need more evidence. They should start now, and could save lives.”
Bernadette Bernard, sister of Raymond Bernard who died in the fire, and Jackie Leger on behalf of the Bernard family, said:
“It’s an absolute disgrace and an insult to those who lost their lives and their homes that at this stage of the Inquiry, the Inquiry team has not made any interim recommendations on building and fire safety.”
Maria Cheijina, the sister of 60 year-old Vincent Cheijina who died on the 17th floor of the Tower, said that the Inquiry had “not delivered what it should deliver” and that the process “needs to be human.”
Russell-Cooke partner Graham French, who is representing some of the bereaved and survivors, said:
“The survivors and families understand that there are many very complex and technical issues being addressed by the Inquiry and its experts. But they also believe that there are urgent steps which can, and should, be taken now, including a number of basic fire safety measures in high rise blocks which we say are obvious and do not need further investigation or expert evidence.
“Because there has been no public hearing on this issue, even though one was originally promised, many of our clients feel excluded from the process. They believe that if urgent recommendations were made now, the Chairman of the Inquiry could help monitor their implementation.
“The Chairman of the Inquiry has said that what is obvious to him may not be obvious to someone else. Our clients do not dispute that, but there will never be complete consensus. If we wait for that, our clients believe that further lives could be lost. The obvious recommendations should be hived off and dealt with now.”
Dipti Hirani of Howe & Co, a solicitor representing another group of bereaved and survivors, added:
“The Chair’s decision not to make interim recommendations as previously promised has caused a breakdown of trust in the Inquiry process, trust that was hard-earned. This news has been particularly upsetting for our clients given that we are now at the two-year anniversary, and yet no changes have been made to address the issue of public safety for those who live in high-rise residential buildings. It has always been our clients’ hope that lessons would be learned from this tragedy. Urgent steps need to be taken to prevent a repeat of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
“The Inquiry’s decision not to make urgent interim recommendations at this stage means that this is looking less and less likely. We share our clients’ disappointment in the Chair’s decision.”
The consortium of law firms representing many of the bereaved, survivors and residents includes, but is not limited to: Russell-Cooke, Howe & Co, Birnberg Pierce, Hanover Bond, Deighton Pierce Glynn, Saunders & Co, Saunders Law, Hudgell, Slater & Gordon, Duncan Lewis, Anthony Gold, Janes, Oliver Fisher & Co, Bishop Lloyd & Jackson.