THE BLOG
11/05/2018 17:40 BST | Updated 11/05/2018 17:40 BST

For The Grenfell Inquiry To Deliver Truth And Justice, It Must Have The Full Confidence Of The Bereaved Families And Survivors

Any distrust of the authorities is understandable given how Grenfell survivors describe being let down by local and national governments, both before and after the fire

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

Friday’s decision to finally grant a panel in the Grenfell Inquiry is testimony to the campaigning by the bereaved families and the survivors and to the overwhelming public support they attracted.

But after everything they have been through, the bereaved families and the survivors should never have had to wage such a campaign.

A public inquiry aims to get to the truth as a key step to delivering justice. No inquiry can ever achieve that if it doesn’t have the trust of those directly affected. No inquiry can ever assume it will automatically have this trust, nor can it demand it. Trust must always be earned.

Survivors and bereaved family members said from the start that to help tackle the obvious distrust, they wanted an independent and impartial decision-making panel with the expertise and experience needed to support the Inquiry.

Any distrust of the authorities is understandable given how Grenfell survivors describe being let down by local and national governments, both before and after the fire.

They also expressed concern that no one person alone has the expertise or understanding to reflect the broad experiences of the hundreds of people who lived in Grenfell Tower.

It is worth noting that the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, which marked a watershed in uncovering institutional racism in this country, had a similar type of panel that had been demanded for Grenfell.

After the Prime Minister told the families, just a few days before Christmas, that there would be no panel, the sense of injustice grew even stronger. Soon after 150,000 members of the public had signed a petition calling for a Grenfell Inquiry Panel.

Thanks to that, Parliament will finally debate the Grenfell Inquiry on Monday. And that popular support has also played a key role in today’s reversal by Theresa May to use her powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 to allow a panel, and not just an individual, to oversee inquiries.

Monday’s debate will be an opportunity to ask further questions about Friday’s decision and about other demands being made by the families on the Grenfell Inquiry.

For example at a briefing meeting I attended last week with those directly affected by the Grenfell fire, concerns were raised about the ability of their lawyers to cross examine witnesses and that they still had not been given access to many of the documents in front of the inquiry.

But one important lesson is already clear. For the Grenfell Inquiry to deliver truth and justice, it must always have the full confidence of the bereaved families and survivors. Going forward there must be no repeat of the delays and refusals we have seen in recent months.

Richard Burgon is the shadow justice secretary and Labour MP for Leeds East