On the 5 June 2018 Howe & Co’s lead counsel, Sam Stein QC, made his powerful opening statement on behalf of the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower that Howe & Co represent. Mr Stein’s opening submissions highlighted the “vertical village” that was the Grenfell Tower Community. Thereafter Mr Stein conducted a forensic examination of the failures that led to the loss of so many loved family members, neighbours and friends.
A link to the transcript of the hearing can be found here. Mr Stein’s submissions on behalf of Howe & Co’s clients begin from 02:03:43 here until 02:50:58.
The Inquiry will continue to hear opening statements on behalf of Core Participants until the end of Thursday 7 June 2018. Howe & Co’s team will be in attendance at the hearing centre every day to support our clients and to make sure their views and priorities are heard loud and clear.
This followed the opening of the Inquiry, with commemorative statements from the 21 May 2018 until 30 May 2018. The commemorative hearings were an incredibly moving tribute to those that did not survive the fire. The hearing started with the youngest loss of life, Logan Gomes, whose parents are represented by Martin Howe, and finished with another of Howe & Co’s clients, the Choucair family who lost six family members.
The tributes were moving and often distressing. The powerful words of the family members fundamentally changed the way the Chair and legal team of the Inquiry viewed the victims and survivors and the loss they had suffered.
On the 4 June 2018, Counsel to the Inquiry made his opening statement, and specifically identified the submissions of Howe & Co, as part of the group of three solicitors submissions. Counsel to the Inquiry stated that:
“G3 group of bereaved, survivors and residents assert at paragraph 68 that it is "beyond argument" that many more would have survived than did survive if the stay-put policy had been abandoned at 1.26 am, or at any rate long before 2.47 am. “
Whilst Counsel to the Inquiry has stated that he does not agree with this assessment Howe & Co are confident that this is correct and will maintain in argument this position that the stay put policy should have been abandoned sooner rather than later.
Howe & Co are determined that the lives of those lost in Grenfell will not be forgotten and that the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower will be placed at the very heart of this Inquiry.
The Inquiry have asked that when Core Participants attend the hearing they sign in with the Inquiry so that they can arrange for subsistence payments to assist with your attendance at the hearing.
We will return to the Inquiry on the 6 June 2018, and continue to listen to the opening submissions. In the next few days we will start to hear from the Corporations Core Participants. A number have already been criticised for failing to be clear, and use due candour in their opening, and so might use the oral submissions to set out their positions.
A direct approach to the Hackitt Review by lawyers representing a large number of Core Participant victims in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was rebuffed by the Hackitt Report Review team. Repeated requests for access to documentation and evidence from industry groups gathered by the Review team behind closed doors were met with a blanket refusal, effectively silencing any fully-informed and meaningful input from the Grenfell victims and preventing their voices from being adequately heard by the Hackitt Review.
Ignored own findings
In refusing meaningful and informed engagement with victims of Grenfell, the one group of people most directly affected by issues concerning cladding and regulation, the Hackitt Review has ignored one its key, highlighted findings in the Interim Report of December 2017:
“Residents’ voices are not heard – there are inadequate channels for residents to have a voice on fire safety...”
Lawyers representing the group were allowed only a 30 minute slot with officials from the Review team ‘due to diary pressures’ to put the case for the Grenfell victims’ full participation in evidence- gathering for the Review, despite several requests for an adequate opportunity for discussion.
Martin Howe, senior partner of Howe & Co Solicitors, representing Grenfell victims said:
“The Hackitt report places emphasis on the importance of victims’ voices being heard but has shown a stark lack of meaningful commitment to that process.
The call for evidence by the Hackitt Review was made when Grenfell survivors were traumatised by the awful events; they were scattered around London in emergency and temporary accommodation; some were in hospital struggling to breathe let alone speak due to smoke inhalation and toxic poisoning. The families of those killed were deep in grief trying to pick up the pieces of broken families. The Grenfell victims were simply not in a position to respond to the call for evidence in anything like the same way that institutional and industry bodies were able to contribute. The victims’ voices were once again ignored.”
Martin Howe and David Enright appeared on the opening day of the Genfell Tower Inquiry on behalf of the more than 60 victims and Survivors of the Grenfell Tower catastrophe.
Sam Stein QC addressed Rt Hon Moore Bick (chair of the Grenfell Inquity) on behalf of Howe & Co’s clients. Mr Stein informed the Inquiry that Howe & Co took an unashamedly pro victim, pro survivor, pro resident stance. Mr Stein QC set out the challenges faced by victim core participants and the steps the Inquiry must take to address those challenges and to allow survivors to participate.
The Chair, Sir Martin Moore Bick, described Howe & Co’s submissions as ‘powerful’
To watch the live feed of the hearing see here
It has been announced today that Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the recently retired Lord Justice of Appeal who was the Vice-President of the Court of Appeal until December 2016, has been appointed as the Chair of the Grenfell Inquiry. Sir Martin retired from the Court of Appeal in December 2016, is currently an Arbitrator working with 20 Essex Street.
Howe & Co is an experienced firm of solicitors in representing victims and survivors in Public Inquiries. We will be pressing the newly appointed Chair to ensure that victims and survivors are placed at the heart and centre of the Grenfell Inquiry.
Marin Howe (senior partner in Howe & Co) said:
The Government have set out a range of measures to support those effected by the Grenfell fire.
Those effected have been reminded that they can access legal advice and support under the free Legal Aid scheme in relation to any Inquest. There will also potentially be support provided in respect of the Public Inquiry that is expected into this tragedy.
Howe & Co are widely acknowledged as experts in the area of sensitive public Inquiries and Inquests. We stand ready to assist victims and survivors to achieve justice and accountability
Howe & Co are committed to providing pro bono (free) initial advice to any persons affected by the Grenfell tragedy