Can the Grenfell Inquiry be a truly modern public inquiry?

Grenfell_Tower_fire_(wider_view)The wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and the start of the first phase of hearings in the Grenfell Inquiry occurred within hours of each other but could not have been more different in terms of how they were received by the British public.

By welcoming into its ranks a biracial, divorced, professional American actress, the Royal Family appears to have gained some much needed legitimacy, and the very modern Royal wedding, undeniably a celebration of diversity, is perhaps a sign that this bit of the British Establishment is moving with the times.

The start of the Grenfell Inquiry — almost a year after the fire on 14 June 2017 which claimed 71 lives — has not been met with such optimism nor enjoyed such accolades. Instead, from the moment the question of who would chair it arose, the Inquiry has been dogged by accusations of “whitewashing”, a persistent failure to listen to the victims and bereaved, and a failure to give them a proper voice.

Is there any hope that the Grenfell Inquiry will finally gain legitimacy? As with the successful McPherson Inquiry following the Stephen Lawrence murder, recognition of diversity and inclusivity are essential.

 

Pressure for a Diverse Panel

When retired Court of Appeal judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, was named as Chairman of the Inquiry, the announcement was met with much criticism, with lawyers, campaign groups, and MPs calling for Sir Martin to quit. Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, argued that a diverse Panel would “help to both build trust and deliver justice” and Labour MP, David Lammy, went so far as to suggest that a “white, upper-middle class man” who had possibly never visited a tower block might not be able to “walk with these people on this journey”.

In announcing the Terms of Reference, the Prime Minister indicated that, at that stage, she had not appointed any other members to the Inquiry Panel but she noted that the Inquiries Act 2005 did allow for such appointments to be made with the consent of Sir Martin, during the course of the Inquiry, so that the composition of the Inquiry Panel could be “kept under review”.

 

R (ota Mr Samuel Daniels) v The Rt Hon Theresa May, the Prime Minister & Sir Martin Moore-Bick [2018] EWHC (1090) Admin — read judgment

On various dates commencing in September 2017, solicitors representing Mr Daniels, the son of an elderly disabled man who died in the Grenfell fire wrote to Sir Martin, the Solicitor to the Inquiry, and the Prime Minister, asking whether the Prime Minister would exercise her powers under s7 of the Inquiries Act to appoint a panel to sit alongside Sir Martin.

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Mirza & Ors: The Rules are neither simple nor flexible so don’t leave it too late

Image result for checking off calendar dates

Mirza and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] UKSC 63 – read judgment and press summary here.

The background to each of these appeals, although unfortunate, is not in any way extraordinary. Indeed, it is perhaps quite common for those applying for leave to remain to fall foul of procedural requirements or to be caught out by one of the many frequent changes in the legislative scheme governing immigration.

Whereas in most cases the solution may be simply to correct the procedural defect and make a further application, matters become much more complicated for those who apply too close to the date on which their leave to remain expires.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision makes clear that s.3C of the Immigration Act 1971 does not automatically extend a person’s leave to remain. Where leave expires in between the defective application and the fresh one an applicant will simply have run out of time for correction. This was the situation in which all three appellants found themselves.

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“Asylum seeker death driver” case was misunderstood

The Secretary of State for the Home Department v Respondent [2010] UKUT B1 – Read judgment

There has been public outrage over the ruling of two Senior Immigration Judges that it would be unlawful to deport Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, who has been labelled an “asylum seeker death driver”

The fury has not been limited to the lay public or the media, but “great anger” has also been expressed by high-profile figures such as Prime Minister David Cameron, a well-known critic of the Human Rights Act. The Government’s embarrassment over the decision has prompted Immigration Minister, Damian Green, to announce that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will appeal the decision, and there have been more drastic calls from Tory MPs for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

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