Grenfell fire: Retired judge to lead disaster inquiry

29 Jun

Martin Moore-BickImage copyright
British High Commission in Brunei

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been chosen to lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, sources say.

The government is like to confirm Sir Martin’s appointment on Thursday.

A legal source who has worked with him said he was “highly respected” in the profession and “intellectually superb”.

Appointing people to lead public inquiries can be controversial – the inquiry into historical child sex abuse has had four chairwomen in three years.

‘Unfailingly courteous’

Police have said 80 people are now presumed dead in the Grenfell disaster, which happened in west London on 14 June.

But the final death toll will not be known until at least the end of the year.

Most of those who died in the fire were said to be in 23 of the North Kensington tower block’s 129 flats.

Sir Martin retired as a Lord Justice of Appeal in December.

As a lawyer, he specialised in commercial law before spending more than 20 years as a judge of the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal.

The prime minister has said a full judge-led inquiry is needed to make sure the disaster was “properly investigated”.

Victims will have state funding for legal representation at the inquiry.

The legal source told the BBC: “He (Sir Martin) had a successful practice in shipping law at the Bar and would have had to deal with many technical issues in shipping cases – for example, the causes of a ship sinking.

“This would have meant mastering complex technical evidence and dealing with a raft of expert engineers.

“Though different in nature, these would be engineering issues of similar complexity to those he would have to deal with in the Grenfell inquiry.

“He would also have had to deal with heavy engineering issues while a judge in the commercial court.”

The source added: “He is unfailingly courteous (and) prepared to change his mind in the light of persuasive argument and evidence.”

Sir Martin Moore-Bick

  • Called to the Bar in 1969, became a QC in 1986, appointed to the High Court in 1995
  • Appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2005 and was Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, from 2014 until his retirement in 2016
  • Born in Wales and educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge
  • Married with four children, his brother is retired Army general John Moore-Bick
  • Who’s Who lists Sir Martin’s hobbies as early music, gardening, reading

Meanwhile, the National Housing Federation – which represents non-profit housing associations in England – has called on the government to “halt the testing on ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding and shift its focus to making people safe”.

Cladding from up to 600 buildings across England is being examined by the government. Every sample – 120 so far – has failed fire safety tests.

Chief executive David Orr said: “Since the tragic fire that took place at Grenfell Tower, colleagues across the housing sector have been doing everything they can to reassure residents and take action to make homes safer.

“This includes urgently submitting data and samples to the government’s testing programme.

“These tests were the right thing to do, but the results are now conclusive – ACM cladding simply does not pass these tests and is deemed unsafe.

“Across the country, valuable resources – from specialist equipment to expert time – are being poured into a testing process of which the results are already known.

“We are calling on government to halt the testing on ACM cladding and shift its focus to making people safe.

“It is highly likely that this means removing the cladding from hundreds of buildings we were assured were safe – including hotels, private sector blocks, hospitals and student accommodation.

“This process has powerfully demonstrated a systemic failure in construction, manufacturing and the way that regulation has been applied.”

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