As the Inquiry prepares for its first evidential hearings, it has written to core participants with the following update.
This update includes information about:
- Progress to evidential hearings
- Core participants
- Community engagement
- Vulnerable witnesses
- Additional Assessors
- Expert reports
- Document disclosure
- A procedural hearing to take place on 21 and 22 March 2018
Progress to evidential hearings
Lead Counsel has written to Core Participants (CPs) inviting comment on a proposed procedural programme with the intention of evidential hearings beginning in May and in any event no later than 4 June 2018.
The Inquiry continues to receive applications for CP status. To date, a total of 521 applications have been granted. Of these, 495 are survivors, bereaved and residents of the local areas and the remaining 26 are organisations such as businesses and local or national government bodies.
In the interest of transparency, the Chairman would like to publish the names of all CPs as soon as possible. Ahead of this, the Chairman has invited those CPs who wish to have their name withheld from the publication to submit their requests, setting out the reasons, by 21 February 2018.
The Inquiry is consulting with those affected by the fire and community leaders on the idea of establishing a community forum. This would be to both ensure that the Inquiry remains fully informed of any concerns arising from the community and also to provide appropriate support to ensure the community’s continued participation in, and understanding of, the Inquiry’s work.
The Inquiry is committed to ensuring all witnesses are able to give their evidence to the Inquiry and fully appreciates this may be a harrowing and traumatic experience. To help facilitate the process of evidence-taking, the Inquiry has today published a protocol which details the approach it will take to support vulnerable witnesses. The Chairman has a wide discretion in making arrangements to ensure that those who are vulnerable or have special needs of any kind are able to give their evidence in the least distressing and most effective way. Examples of such arrangements are:
- The use of an interpreter;
- The appointment of an intermediary;
- Allowing the witness to be accompanied by a friend or relative;
- Taking evidence from a remote location by live link or by way of recorded interview;
- The use of screens;
- Allowing regular breaks.
In addition to the three assessors who have been appointed the Chairman is seeking to make two further appointments: one from the field of architecture to assist with consideration of design and build issues and the other with relevant expertise in the field of social housing and tenants’ rights to assist in particular with consideration of issues from a tenant’s perspective. Once they have been appointed CPs will be notified and details will be published on the Inquiry’s website.
The Inquiry has instructed a number of experts to provide reports. The Inquiry intends to disclose the expert reports relevant to the first phase of evidential hearings to CPs by 30 March 2018. These are:
- Prof. Niamh Nic Daeid, as to the cause and spread of the fire in the flat of origin and the spread of fire within and out of that compartment;
- Prof. Luke Bisby, as to the ignition of the façade materials (including the cladding and insulation) and the fire spread over the building’s external façade;
- Dr. Barbara Lane, as to the active and passive fire protection measures within the building and preliminary conclusions on the extent to which they failed to control the spread of fire and smoke and contributed to the speed at which the fire spread;
- Prof. Jose Torero, as to fire spread throughout the building;
- Colin Todd, as to the different statutory and regulatory requirements in force over the lifetime of Grenfell Tower.
The intention will be to enable CPs to have at least six weeks to consider the experts’ reports before the start of oral hearings.
The Inquiry is actively considering the requirement for further additional or supplemental expertise as the evidential picture develops.
The Inquiry has received over 267,000 documents and it is anticipated this number could rise to 300,000. Witness packs have begun to be disclosed to relevant CPs and the preparation for the first phase of disclosure is well underway.
This material will include the following categories:
- Background material (e.g. floor plans of the tower);
- Emergency services material;
- Witness statements;
- Flame spread material (e.g. photos and videos);
- Material relevant to the cause and origin of the fire.
Procedural hearing on 21 and 22 March 2018
The second procedural hearing will be held on 21 and 22 March 2018 at Holborn Bars. The Inquiry is keen to ensure the views of all CPs are taken into account when considering the structure and timetable for progressing the Inquiry. This hearing will review the progress of the first phase of the Inquiry and finalise the timeframe for the evidential hearings.
Details of procedural hearing [PDF, 1 page – 161kb]