On 11 and 12 December the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will open for procedural hearings. From the experience of INQUEST, bereaved families we have worked with and lawyers representing them we recommend the following as a minimum requirement:

  • The Inquiry must confirm to bereaved families that it understands one of its primary tasks is to uphold the state’s obligations to investigate under article two of the European Convention on Human Rights, as protected by the Human Rights Act.
  • Appoint panel members to reflect the diverse, cultural and religious make-up of the community affected and to draw in the appropriate levels of expertise necessary to meet the needs of the Inquiry.
  • Prompt, full and proper disclosure in advance of all the Inquiry processes including the hearings.
  • The use of pen portraits at the Hillsborough inquests placed the bereaved families at the heart of the proceedings. The Inquiry should adopt this model.
  • Ensure a safe and private space when considering a venue and support throughout the duration of the Inquiry.
  • Ensure an appropriate mental health response for survivors and the bereaved during the course of the Inquiry. The disaster and its aftermath has already traumatised individuals and the Inquiry must ensure that its processes do not further exacerbate this trauma and the impact on mental and physical health.
  • Lawyers should be able to question the witnesses as the need arises as well as submitting questions in advance.

Adel Chaoui, whose family members died in Grenfell Tower said:

“Bereaved families are desperate that the deaths of our loved ones are learnt from, and a tragedy like this, that should have been avoided after the Lakanal House fire, never happens again.

Previously the Stephen Lawrence inquiry benefited from diverse and representative panel, and the full involvement of legal representatives. It’s not enough after the 71 deaths that we cannot have either. Our representatives need to be able to phrase how our questions are delivered. They need to be able to react to the answers. They need to be able to prod and press for the truth.

We fear the Prime Minister's current position does not go far enough to assure us that we'll have access to a balanced and unbiased inquiry. Or indeed that we will have a fair, impartial and honest chance of justice. We urge her to reconsider and put our minds to rest over the matter.”

Families affected by Grenfell, including Adel, are petitioning the government to make these changes, available here.

Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said:

“Grenfell is a shocking injustice and the need for the Inquiry to get to the truth is of value to us all. It can only do this if the individual voices of the bereaved and survivors are not lost and silenced. Recognising the bereaved as victims, placing them at the heart of the Inquiry is essential to help humanise the legal process.

To assuage the profound anger and mistrust requires meaningful engagement of those affected, along with prompt full and proper disclosure and a panel representative of the community. This can help instill confidence and encourage participation. Without this the Inquiry will be flawed and will fail those seeking the truth and justice they deserve.

As we celebrate Human Rights day on Sunday, 10 December it is vital that this inquiry upholds the Human Rights of all those affected in recognising their obligations under article two of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information, please contact us.

More information on the inquiry and procedural hearing can be found on the official inquiry website.

INQUEST coordinates the Grenfell INQUEST Lawyers Group, consisting of lawyers representing those bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017. The INQUEST casework team are also working with several affected families.

For the inquiry INQUEST has undertaken policy, parliamentary and community based work, including putting a submission with proposed terms of reference which is available here.

We are also campaigning for the ‘Hillsborough Law’ to ensure those affected by Grenfell should not have to go through the same struggles as the Hillsborough families, and those of many of the families we work with.

Important recommendations to strengthen post-disaster investigations and accountability, including the Hillsborough Law, were recently endorsed by Bishop James Jones in the Hillsborough review, which INQUEST and the families we work with contributed to.

More information on the work we are doing on the Grenfell Tower fire can be found here.