THE Grenfell Inquiry has suspended all future hearings to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.
The chairman of the Inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a retired High Court judge, released a statement on Monday night, after the Prime Minister urged everyone in the UK to avoid all social gatherings in an effort to lessen the effects of the pandemic.
It read: “In the light of the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon the Panel has decided that the Inquiry should hold no further hearings for the time being. To do so, even on the basis of limited attendance, would be to expose those whose presence is essential for that purpose, not to mention those whom we wish to call as witnesses, to an unacceptable risk of infection.
“It would also send the wrong signal to the world at large at a time when everyone is being urged to co-operate with measures designed to minimise the effect of the virus.”
The Inquiry was looking into whether it might possible to resume hearings using electronic means. “But even if that is not possible,” Sir Martin said, “the work of the Inquiry will continue.”
The Grenfell Inquiry was commissioned by the Government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire that destroyed the residential tower block in west London, killing 53 adults and 19 children, on 14 June 2017 (News, 17 June 2017).
The first report of its two-phase investigation was published last October — several months later than previously planned (News, 1 November). The delay led to anger and dismay from survivors and the families of the victims (News, 20 May 2019).
The Area Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, who was with the emergency services at the foot of the tower as it blazed, said on Tuesday that the current delay was entirely understandable. “Even if the focus for a while has to be elsewhere, the third anniversary of the fire is approaching, and the local community is, as always, keen that whatever else is happening in our national life, the lessons of Grenfell are learnt and that justice is done.
“This is a community that has had to bear more than most over the past few years, and the coronavirus simply adds to the stress and pressure in the lives of ordinary people in North Kensington.”
The next Priest-in-Charge of St Clement’s with St Mark’s, Notting Dale, and St James’s, Norlands, the Revd Gareth Wardell, is to be licensed next week. The parish has been in an interregnum since the previous Vicar, the Revd Dr Alan Everett, moved to All Saints’, West Dulwich, in July. St Clement’s, a few minutes’ walk from Grenfell Tower, was the first to respond in the early hours of the disaster (News, 23 June 2016).