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Grenfell Tower Inquiry disrupted by protesters shouting ‘disgrace’
2 March 2020
- Grenfell Tower fire
Protesters calling for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to be abandoned brought hearings to a temporary halt earlier.
They were angry about the government’s decision to guarantee some witnesses will not be prosecuted on the basis of what they say at the inquiry.
Shouts of “it’s a disgrace” were heard and one protester asked inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick: “Have you sold your soul yet, Sir Martin?”
Several people were removed by security staff before the hearing resumed.
The second stage of the ongoing inquiry is looking into how the 24-storey tower in west London came to be covered in flammable cladding during its refurbishment between 2012 and 2016.
The fire at Grenfell on 14 June 2017 spread quickly and killed 72 people.
But Monday’s hearing was interrupted after the day’s first witness, Andrzej Kuszell, a director of the architects Studio E which designed the refurbishment, began to give evidence.
Security staff were called and a senior police officer who leads the Metropolitan Police investigation into the fire negotiated with three men who were shouting at the chairman.
- Grenfell inquiry backs bid for evidence guarantee
- Grenfell firms ‘knew cladding would fail in fire’
- Firms ‘deny responsibility’ for Grenfell fire
When the hearing resumed 10 minutes later, one man in the room told Sir Martin: “These people are not bereaved and survivors.”
One man, who was bereaved by the fire, argued with the protesters saying that he and other victims of the fire wanted to hear what witnesses had to say.
The protests follow last week’s decision by Attorney General Suella Braverman to back a request from firms that refurbished the building that the evidence they gave should not be used against them in criminal prosecutions.
The legal decision was taken to prevent witnesses exercising their right not to incriminate themselves by refusing to answer questions.
One of the protesters, Jonty Leff, told reporters the decision was “outrageous”.
“This means they can’t prosecute individuals. This is a whitewash,” he said.
“It means the inquiry is defunct and the whole thing has to be shut down and they have to move straight to the prosecution.”
Police are able to use evidence they gather separately, as well as documents produced at the inquiry, and the chairman has stressed the decision does not mean witnesses have automatic immunity from prosecution.
Speaking after the protests, Sir Martin said he had been “very impressed” by the behaviour of those at the inquiry during the first stage, which looked at how the fire began and spread.
“Obviously, you may hear things that you don’t like to hear and people may feel strongly about some of the evidence, but it’s very important… that the witnesses are allowed to give their evidence with dignity and respect from everyone,” he added.
Later, Mr Kuszell told the inquiry that the refurbishment project was “not in our normal experience” and that fire regulations had become “voluminous and actually at times difficult to interpret”.
Documents between some of the many companies involved in the refurbishment were also released to the inquiry.
One email from the Kensington and Chelsea council to the architects Studio E showed that cladding manufacture Arconic (AAP) believed the “current choice of cladding” was “dull and lifeless” offering little visual improvement.
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sources: world news from bbc news bbc.co.uk