The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been put on hold ‘until further notice’ following the government’s stricter advice on measures to counter the coronavirus epidemic
In a press conference yesterday afternoon (16 March), the Prime Minister dramatically stepped up the government’s response to the growing crisis, telling people to avoid all non-essential contact.
Following the announcement, inquiry chair Martin Moore-Bick took the decision to suspend the hearings, as continuing would expose those required to attend to an ‘unacceptable risk’ of infection.
It came after one of the inquiry’s panel, architect and health and safety expert Thouria Istephan, became ill over the weekend with symptoms similar to the virus.
Moore-Bick, who at 73 is in one of the ‘high-risk’ groups told to take greater caution, said he would consider the possibility of continuing hearings via video link and would provide a further update in due course.
He said: ’In the light of the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon, the panel has decided that the inquiry should hold no further hearings for the time being. To do so, even on the basis of limited attendance, would be to expose those whose presence is essential for that purpose, not to mention those whom we wish to call as witnesses, to an unacceptable risk of infection.
’It would also send the wrong signal to the world at large at a time when everyone is being urged to co-operate with measures designed to minimise the effect of the virus.’
The inquiry was halted during the evidence of fire safety engineers Exova. Yesterday (16 March) it heard from Cate Cooney, the fire consultant who wrote a draft fire strategy report for Grenfell Tower.
Cooney admitted she had never been to the tower and had made a ‘number of assumptions’ in the draft report, adding she anticipated these would have been investigated before a full fire strategy report could have been signed off.
Exova followed architects Studio E, who spent two weeks under cross-examination. The AJ’s round-up of the practice’s evidence can be found here.