A lawyer for the Grenfell Inquiry has refuted claims that less than five percent of key documents about the tower block fire have been released to lawyers representing survivors and the bereaved.
During a procedural hearing at an inquiry into the tragedy on Monday, lawyers said it had taken months to persuade the investigation team to disclose even basic material and also asked why they were not able to question witnesses directly.
Pete Weatherby QC, who represents 73 survivors, families who lost loved ones and displaced residents, said the disclosure of key documents to lawyers representing those affected remained a “serious concern”.
It is understood that most of the 378,000-plus documents are related to the second phase of the inquiry and still need to be checked for duplicates and redacted.
On Tuesday, Richard Millett, counsel to the inquiry, took the first opportunity to respond to suggestions that key documents were being kept from core participants.
He said: “I just want to make one thing crystal clear. It is not, and has never been, the approach of this inquiry to keep any relevant documents from anybody.”
“I would reject utterly the suggestion that the percentage of four or five per cent, such as was bandied about yesterday of disclosure, represents anything like the total of documents which will disclosed to core participants in due course.”
Asked by inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick to provide an update on how much phase one material had been made available, he said: “So far as I know almost all of these have been disclosed and if they haven’t been disclosed, it’s because they are still being received from the LFB [London Fire Brigade] and reviewed by the police and coming to us after that process.
“But as matters far as I understand, the process is ongoing in relation to the matters coming only from the LFB, I think on a fairly minor basis.”
He said he would be looking to publish an update on disclosure shortly.
During the hearing on Monday Weatherby said: “We currently have received less than five percent of the documents the inquiry has had. In a number of areas disclosure remains a serious concern for us.
“We have taken many months to persuade the team to disclose basic material such as the CCTV footage.”
Leslie Thomas QC, who also represents some survivors and bereaved, emphasised the need for lawyers representing those affected by the tragedy to be able to question witnesses directly.
He asked: “Why must they be made to feel like bystanders at an investigation of their own tragedy?”
Thomas went on: “The system as it now stands is, I say respectfully, a little haphazard, with individual counsel passing notes to your counsel, sometimes interrupting his flow and thoughts when he is concentrating on a line of questioning.
“Although he has been very patient and accommodating, we can see how disruptive this has been for him and it makes us reluctant to want to interrupt him.”
Another lawyer, Michael Mansfield QC, said some of the 30 or so urgent recommendations he was proposing on behalf of affected families were “blindingly obvious”.
“They do not require any evidence from phase two or any more evidence from phase one. They do not require, and should not require, consultation.
“Because all of the 30 stretch from the rather banal but important fire extinguisher, high-rise pack type of accessory – which we say in this case, had there been a fire extinguisher available to the occupant of the flat in which it all started, we might not be sitting here.”
He called for a hearing on 14 September to see if a consensus on what recommendations should be made in addition to the “obvious” ones.
The inquiry continues.