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Grenfell bid for diverse inquiry fails

Court backs appointment of judge to oversee probe

THE BEREAVED SON of a Grenfell fire victim has lost his court bid against Theresa May’s refusal to make an inquiry panel probing the disaster more diverse.

Samuel Daniels’s 69-year-old father Joseph died in flat 135 on the 16th floor of the tower during the blaze in Kensington, west London on June 14 last year — he had lived there since 1983.

The Prime Minister has appointed retired High Court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick as chairman of the inquiry, but refused to appoint a socially diverse panel to sit alongside him.

Parliament is due to debate whether to broaden the panel’s membership on May 14, after a petition received more than 150,000 signatures.

In his accompanying legal challenge Mr Daniels argued that a diverse inquiry panel would “bolster public confidence and engender public trust in uncovering the truth.”

Hugh Southey QC, for Mr Daniels, said Ms May had justified her decision on three grounds — that “the inquiry has the necessary expertise,” that “there is a need for the inquiry to report as quickly as possible” and that she had had regard to the Equality Act.

Mr Southey said her response “does not address certain key issues” however, most importantly public confidence in the inquiry.

He added that an expert report by Dr Marie Stewart emphasised the importance of a diverse panel, which was "to a large extent based on the experiences of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry."

He said Ms May “accepts that public confidence would be enhanced by the appointment of third members to the inquiry panel,” which could also “help foster good relations” with the community.

But Mr Southey said the Prime Minister had found those considerations were “outweighed by other factors,” including the speed with which the inquiry would report its findings.

He said there was currently a “lack of belief” in the inquiry process, but added “we are still in an early stage” and any “appointment process can be relatively quick.”

Mr Southey said a public inquiry was intended to “address public concern” and that “there is no point in investigating in a way that does not have public confidence, adding that “where public confidence is in issue … powers have to be used to promote public confidence.”

Speaking for Ms May, Julian Milford said the survivors and relatives of those who had died were "entitled to great respect" but that "public confidence does not equate to the subjective views of any particular group."

He added that Mr Southey’s argument amounted to saying “the confidence of the local community" had the power to "trump every other factor.”

Lord Justice Bean today refused permission for a judicial review of Ms May's decision, ruling that "the wishes of the survivors or the bereaved … cannot be conclusive" of the inquiry's composition.

He added that Ms May "was plainly well aware … of the anger and mistrust … and the wish of many of the survivors and the bereaved to see a diverse panel appointed."

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