Grenfell inquiry panel faces judicial review over lack of diversity

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Sep 13, 2017
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A group of ethnic minority lawyers has accused the government of failing to ensure that the panel reflects the diverse ethnicity of the survivors of the blaze

NATALIE OXFORD/AFP/Getty Images

High Court judges will be asked to rule on whether the inquiry team investigating the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire is sufficiently ethnically and socially diverse.

A group of ethnic minority lawyers filed an urgent application yesterday for judicial review of the terms of the inquiry, which is being chaired by the former Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

The group, BMELawyers4Grenfell, has accused the government of failing to ensure that Sir Martin’s team “reflects the diverse ethnicity and faiths of the survivors” of the disaster.

Sir Martin’s appointment, announced in June a fortnight after the fire, has been the source of controversy, with local community groups claiming that he is a member of the establishment and will therefore not command respect of residents.

BMELawyers4Grenfell aims to force Theresa May to confirm “whether she will appoint other members to the inquiry panel to guarantee it has the right level of ethnic diversity and expertise in the local government, scientific, technical, social and legal contributors that led to the fire”.

According to the barrister Ismet Rawat, cofounder of BMELawyers4Grenfell and president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, the government’s response so far “has been inept to say the least, and has inevitably added to the trauma and distress of individuals and the wider community”.

Ms Rawat said it was “critical that the inquiry is established robustly. Theresa May cannot allow it to be run in the shambolic fashion of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse”.

The lawyers argue that under the Inquiries Act 2005, the prime minister must confirm before the investigation begins whether she will be appointing other members to the panel.

Ranjit Sond, of the Society of Asian Lawyers, another member of the group, said: “Given the context and the background of a large number of the victims, we argue that this can only be achieved with the appointment of an ethnically and religiously diverse panel, who have the relevant expertise to assist the chair and ensure public trust and confidence in the inquiry.”

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