More than 500 individuals and organisations have so far applied to be Core Participants in the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell fire tragedy.
The allocation of Core Participant (CP) status in a public inquiry is mechanism for ensuring that certain people (or groups of people) with a significant interest can participate during the Inquiry, for example by making statements or suggesting lines of questioning to be pursued. The system ensures that the Inquiry is in a position to be able to fulfil its terms of reference.
At the opening of the Inquiry on 14th September, Inquiry Chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said that around 300 applications had been received to date. In the month following his Opening Statement, a further 200 applications have been made by those wishing to participate in the Inquiry, with applications still being received. These continue to be processed with the aim of notifying all applicants by the end of October.
While those wishing to be Core Participants were asked to submit their applications by 8th September 2017, the Chair made it clear that any applications received after that date would still be considered on their own merit, particularly in light of the short timeframe between the tragedy occurring and the launch of the Inquiry.
Under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 a core participant can include an individual, organisation or entity with a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates. A core participant will not necessarily be a core participant for the whole duration of the inquiry.
Those designated as core participants may participate in the Inquiry in a number of ways:
- Receiving in advance of hearings disclosure of evidence which the Chair considers relevant to that core participant;
- Making an opening and closing statement at certain hearings;
- Suggesting lines of questioning to be pursued by Counsel to the Inquiry; and
- Their recognised legal representative may apply to the Chair to ask questions of a witness.
In the case of the Grenfell Inquiry, certain groups automatically qualified for CP status. These were:
- The survivors of the fire at Grenfell Tower;
- All individuals who were residents of Grenfell Tower at the time of the fire; and
- The families of those that died or those who were injured and as a result are unable to participate in the Inquiry.
Other applications are being reviewed against the following criteria:
- Those playing, or who may have played, a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates;
- Those having a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or
- Those with the potential to be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the Inquiry proceedings or in the report, or in any interim report.
Core Participants fulfil a different role in public inquiries to witnesses. A witness is someone who has evidence relating to the matters being considered by the Inquiry, as set out in the terms of reference. This could be as a witness to an event or through the records they hold, such as videos, photographs or documentation, or as someone with relevant specialist expertise. Witnesses may be called to give evidence in the form of a written or oral statement and may also be asked to appear at an Inquiry hearing.
An individual or organisation can be both a core participant and a witness – the two roles are not mutually exclusive.
A timetable for evidential hearings cannot be finalised until procedural issues, including the allocation of CP status, is complete.
While details of applicants are confidential, the names of Core Participants will be added to the Inquiry website when all applications have been determined by the Chair, unless a successful representation is made by anyone who would prefer their name to be withheld.
The frequently asked questions page has more information about Core Participant status.