The Weekly Round-up: Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry

16 February 2021 by

Grenfell Tower in June 2017

In the News:

Having been temporarily suspended in early January as a result of an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings resumed on 8 February 2021. The fire killed 72 people.

The hearings are being conducted remotely using a Zoom-based video platform, which the Inquiry describes as “a temporary measure to be used only for as long as absolutely necessary”.

The Inquiry conducted Phase 1 of the investigation, which focused on the events of the night of 14 June 2017, on 12 December 2018. Phase 2 is currently underway, which examines the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition which allowed the fire to spread in the way identified by Phase 1.

The Phase 2 hearings are organised into seven modules focusing on different key topics. In the order in which they will be heard, according to the Inquiry’s provisional outline timeline, the modules are:

  • Module 1: The primary refurbishment – overview and cladding (September to October 2020)
  • Module 2: Cladding products – testing/certification, product marketing (November 2020 to March 2021)
  • Module 3: Complaints and communication with residents; management of Grenfell Tower, compliance with Fire Safety Order 2005; fire risk assessment; active and passive fire safety measures internal to building (April to July 2021)
  • Module 5: Firefighting (July to October 2021)
  • Module 6: Government (October to December 2021)
  • Module 7: Further evidence from expert witnesses (December 2021)
  • Module 4: Aftermath of the fire (January 2022 to February 2022)

The Inquiry is currently focused on Module 2. So far, it has heard that cladding manufacturer Arconic considered withdrawing its combustible panels for sale after several high-rise cladding fires in the UAE. Debbie French, the UK sales manager at the time of the fire, admitted that the company marketed a more flammable version of the panels because a fire-retardant version was less likely to secure contracts due to its price.

For those interested in getting a more detailed view, much of the Inquiry is available to view free online on YouTube.

Alternatively, the BBC provides a weekly overview in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Podcast.

In Other News:

  • In the High Court, Mr Justice Warby granted HRH The Duchess of Sussex summary judgment in her claim for misuse of private information against Associated Newspaper Limited, publishers of the Mail on Sunday, for five articles in February 2019 including extracts from a letter to her father, Mr Thomas Markle. The claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and copyright of the letter. The contents of the letter were personal matters, not matters of legitimate public interest due to her role as a high-ranking member of the Royal family.
  • The Good Law Project is challenging the award of a contract to a company run by long-term associates of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings. The £550,000 contract to conduct focus groups on the government’s pandemic messaging was not put out to competitive tender. The GLP is also challenging two government contracts awarded to a lobbying and PR firm cofounded by Paul Stephenson, who worked alongside Cummings for the 2016 Vote Leave campaign.

In the Courts:

  • QSA & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v National Police Chiefs’ Council & Anor [2021] EWHC 272:
    • Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Garnham dismissed a judicial review of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s policy that prostitution-related convictions remain recorded on the Police National Computer until those convicted are one hundred years old.
    • Each of the three claimants was forced or groomed into prostitution in their teens. Two suffered sexual abuse as children and were still children when they were forced into prostitution by older men. None of the claimants have been convicted of any offence for more than 20 years. They feel angry, degraded, endangered and held back in their chosen professional fields by the records of their convictions.
    • The claimants argued that the policy was unlawful since it interferes with their rights under Article 8 ECHR, is not in accordance with the law, and is disproportionate.
    • The court found the rule to be in accordance with the law, since “as a hard-edged rule that does not allow for the exercise of discretion, its effect on the claimants’ Article 8 rights is plain and entirely foreseeable.”

On the UKHRB:

  • Following on from an earlier post on the problem of “vaccine hesitancy”, Rosalind English summarises some legal risks posed by private vaccination enforcement measures.
  • An analysis of the Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling that Ryanair’s “Jab and Go!” campaign was irresponsible and in breach of the Broadcast Code.
  • Samuel March summarises a recent ruling that removed the requirement for defendants in criminal trials to state their nationality to the court at preliminary hearings.
  • Michael Spencer sums up a recent successful judicial review of the Universal Credit childcare payment system.
  • Ruby Peacock and Susana Ferrin Perez analyse a landmark judgment in which a Bordeaux court took pollution into account in deciding that an asylum seeker with asthma and sleep apnea could not be returned to his country of origin.
  • Conor Monighan summarises the Divisional Court’s decision that the Intelligence Services Act does not permit the government to engage in computer hacking.

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