The first hearing of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry concluded to a chorus of heckles after a prominent lawyer attempted to quiz the probe’s chairman.
In an opening statement, Sir Martin Moore-Bick told the packed Grand Connaught Rooms in Holborn, central London, that his investigation “can and will provide answers”.
The retired Court of Appeal judge said he would not “shrink” from making findings which could affect criminal prosecutions or civil actions, during a hearing lasting more than 45 minutes.
A minute’s silence was held as proceedings began for the estimated 80 victims of the June 14 inferno, observed by the survivors and bereaved families in attendance.
But the controversy which has dogged the probe was not far behind, as Michael Mansfield, who represents several survivors, attempted to challenge Sir Martin.
Discontent had begun brewing when the inquiry head rejected calls for residents to be included as one of his team of assessors, telling the inquiry it would “risk undermining my impartiality”.
Paul Menacer, Grenfell resident and survivor, after the first preliminary hearing in the Grenfell Tower public inquiry (Victoria Jones/PA)
As the meeting drew to a close, Mr Mansfield QC said: “Sir, before departing, I wonder if I may make a quick request on behalf of survivors.”
He was ignored by the judge as he exited the room to shouts of “hello?” and “rubbish” from gathered residents.
Speaking afterwards, the lawyer dismissed Sir Martin’s decision to opt for assessors and branded his departure “disrespectful”.
Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy after the first preliminary hearing in the Grenfell Tower public inquiry (Victoria Jones/PA)
He told the Press Association: “I was making a request on behalf of survivors for another preliminary meeting when they would be there as key participants, as they are all going to be core participants, with designated lawyers to sort out reservations and concerns that they have had from the beginning about this whole process.
“One of them can be encapsulated in the absence of any mention of the establishment of a panel or any panel to sit with him to take decisions, there are other issues, but that’s a big one.
“Assessors are quite separate.”
Asked about Sir Martin’s decision to leave the room, he said: “I feel it is disrespectful to survivors.”
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chairman of the Grenfell public inquiry (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Hamid, a former resident of the tower’s 16th floor, was also among those watching Sir Martin’s opening statement.
He said: “I think it is rubbish, nothing special, this is a serious matter, it is not good.
“Everything is missing, they never gave us a chance to make a point.”