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Thursday 27 July 2017

Press Release: Failures of Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry consultation and lack of diversity


************************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE************************


BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL, survivors, residents, community members and other groups remain extremely concerned about the lack of the promised consultation on the appointment of the Inquiry Chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick.  This has been compounded by the complete lack of openness surrounding the appointment of his Inquiry Team. It has been further compounded by the lack of diversity – until last Thursday, the Team was all white with one female, when an Asian female barrister appeared to have been appointed. We do not challenge the ability of the Inquiry Team and Chair.  We do challenge their appropriateness for this phenomenally important Inquiry. This, and other concerns, have been repeatedly raised since 19 June 2017, via written communications and broadcast and print media but continues to be ignored. 

This is further compounded by the Team’s attempts at ‘community engagement’ designed to involve the community in the Terms of Reference and take note of community concerns.

Community consultation should be an effective mechanism for the survivors, their families, local residents and the community, to ensure that the Public Inquiry is both credible and that it inspires confidence. The huge loss of life means that a whole community has been devastated and traumatised. This process ought to have begun the process of healing and recovery for the community. Instead, they are being re-traumatised. 

3 meetings: 19 July, 20 July and 25 July 2017.  The first two held outside of the community. None properly advertised. Community members and groups had to fill this void to ensure that people attended. The meetings were extremely poorly designed and managed and without any agenda, resulting in chaos - which will no doubt be blamed on those attending. No interpreters were provided for survivors and their families and no counsellors arranged to support them during and after the meeting. 

A more disorganised and incompetent consultation process could not have been devised if they had planned to do so and further shines a light on the need for diversity. At each of the meetings, one attendee after another expressed their distress about this and their lack of confidence, calling for the Chair and Team to resign or, at the very least, appoint, on their merits, a panel of suitably qualified BME professionals, of whom there are many.

At the final meeting, 25 July 2017, approximately 150 people were forced to share one microphone. The panel did not introduce themselves properly or explain the format of the meeting. Those who shouted the loudest were heard, more than once. No consideration was given to the survivors and survivor’s families in attendance, some of whom were clearly traumatised and crying during the meeting. They and the vast majority of attendees left traumatised and distressed. They felt patronised. They felt they were not listened to.  The little confidence they had was shattered. They were left deeply concerned that justice would not be seen to be done. Again, it was left to the community to support the survivors.

BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL have attended all the meetings. Its members have significant experience of community engagement and Inquiries. The Public Inquiry consultation process is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons:-

  1. It has failed to properly advertise meetings, despite ample contact sources, including the “Gold” group command;
  2. There has been complete disregard as to how people will attend these meetings and failure to provide any transport from hotels for survivors and families to attend. In contrast, this group provided transport 29 June 2017 for the local community to attend the meeting at the House of Commons, Chaired by Diane Abbott MP;
  3. It has failed to provide any mental health trauma counsellors to prepare survivors and families for the meetings or to be on standby during and after the meetings to cope with the extremely distressing and triggering content of these meetings. The impact on mental illness and exacerbation of trauma has been negligently ignored;
  4. It has failed to provide for any silence for reflection or spiritual space at the start of the meeting given the significant proportion of survivors who hold to a religious faith;
  5. It has failed to provide any leaflets, or agendas for the meetings to enable a structured approach to be followed;
  6. It has failed to provide any leaflets or website in any language but English despite being aware of the diversity of the community; Farsi, Arabic, Pashtu, and Amharic are the first languages of some 50% of survivors. It had failed to offer or provide interpreters to make meetings more inclusive.
  7. It has failed to provide any questionnaires available on line in a multi lingual format for people who could not access the meetings to comment on the Terms of Reference, composition of the panel and the format of the Inquiry;
  8. The Chair and Inquiry team have repeatedly refused to answer key questions asked by the community, including how they were appointed and what qualifications they possess to justify their appointments;
  9. The Chair and Inquiry team have failed to conduct the meetings with any apparent sense of empathy for the survivors and local community, or their cultural needs. This has been noted and commented upon by attendees who were visibly distressed by this.

D Peter Herbert O.B.E., barrister and Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers commented:

“AS BME Lawyers and community engagement experts we were appalled at the amateurish approach of the Inquiry team and Chair who did not appear to have a clue as to how to engage with such a diverse multi faith community. The audience were in turn patronised, and treated with thinly disguised disdain or pity that did little to engender any trust & confidence. The failure to reach out in a meaningful manner undermines the Inquiry from the outset, as many voices were simply not heard in the chaos that ensued. The responsibility for this mess lies with the Public Inquiry team and not with this traumatised community which deserves far better than this after such a horrific event.”

Ismet Rawat, barrister & President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers commented:

“Anyone who still questions the need for diversity should take a long hard look at how this process has been conducted to date and the repeated failures to acknowledge or respond to the concerns that have been very clearly conveyed. The survivors, their families and the community are being repeatedly re-victimised and re-traumatised.  The negligence in the handling of this process and abrogation of any duty of care is deeply worrying. Furthermore, the cries for the Chair and the Inquiry Team to stand down are a direct consequence of their continuing failure to inspire trust and confidence in the local community due to their insensitive handling of this key process. A real opportunity has been lost by the Chair and the Inquiry team to show that they can deliver justice for the people of Grenfell. Judicial Review was always going to be the last step.  It may now be the only step which will be listened to.”

Zita Holbourne,Chair BARAC UK commented: 

"There were many people attending who were visibly traumatised but there was nothing put in place to help people through the meeting, as has become a pattern it was left to the community to support each other. The panel did not set out clearly the remit or format for the meeting & it became evident during the course of it that this was much needed. The panel were reluctant to answer questions with Sir Martin Moore-Bick stating that they were only prepared to listen not respond, within minutes of him saying this, appallingly another panel member ordered the attendees to be quiet. There was a complete lack of sympathy, empathy or humanity demonstrated by the Inquiry panel which is quite unacceptable given what survivors, families, residents and the community and going through. It's no wonder that there is zero confidence."

Lee Jasper, former Race Adviser to the Mayor of London commented:

“This chaotic and mismanaged community consultation led by the Chair & his Team makes a mockery of the good practice developed over the last thirty years and is an insult to those that have died and suffered so much in this atrocity. A consultation that makes no attempt to communicate with the survivors, in a manner that is sensitive to their religious, language and cultural needs, with no logistical assistance to attend meetings or a questionnaire only permits for the loudest voices to be heard. That is a fundamentally flawed consultation that flies in the face of the lessons learnt from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. These failures are all the more astonishing as they have occurred with the close involvement of the Prime Ministers Cabinet office at the highest levels of the civil service.”

For further information please contact:

D Peter Herbert – SBL: 07973 794 946;
Ismet Rawat - A.M.L: 07852 146 056;
Zita Holbourne – BARAC UK: 07711 861660
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166;

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