Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Call for a statutory duty of candour and national oversight mechanism
In his closing submissions relating to Module 5 and part of Module 6 at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry today, Professor Leslie Thomas QC, representing a group of the bereaved, survivors and former residents (“BSRs”) of Grenfell Tower, called for a statutory duty of candour and national oversight mechanism.
Professor Thomas QC’s remarks arose out of the evidence in this part of the Inquiry, which has focused on the adequacy of the London Fire Brigade’s (“LFB”) response to the fire at Grenfell Tower. It looked at the preparedness of the LFB for high rise fires and the mechanisms in place at the time of the fire to equip firefighters to deal with such fires. Many senior representatives of the LFB gave evidence to the Inquiry, which obfuscated the issues and did not accept responsibility for institutional failings.
Professor Thomas QC said that the LFB’s institutional defensiveness highlighted the importance of a statutory duty of candour, echoing the demands outlined in the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill known as Hillsborough Law. Professor Thomas QC referred to a speech made by Adel Chaoui, a survivor of the fire at Grenfell Tower, during an event in support of the Hillsborough Law.
Adel said: “where our experiences match other families' is a complete lack of candour. We still see those bodies defending the indefensible rather than cutting their losses. The amount of amnesia we've seen, even undeclared evidence being discovered during the course of the Inquiry, shows that the finely tuned structure of justice in the UK is simply not balanced fairly between everyday victims and what are effectively much richer suspects or even perpetrators responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. We are very aware of the risks that any absence of candour has on holding people accountable for the deaths of our loved ones.”
Professor Thomas QC also, once again, called upon the Inquiry Chair and Panel to support the establishment of a National Oversight Mechanism, an idea promoted by the NGO INQUEST. A National Oversight Mechanism would be an independent body with a duty to gather, analsyse and monitor compliance with recommendations from inquests and public inquires. This would ensure that recommendations from these investigations are no longer able to gather dust without repercussion.
Saunders Law supports the call for a statutory duty of candour as well as a National Oversight mechanism and instructs Professor Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers.
The Inquiry will now hear evidence in the part of Module 6 focused on Central Government.