I write this as people are protesting outside the Kensington and Chelsea Townhall, understandably enraged at the way they have been treated.
In this context, I have an urgent message to everyone jumping up and down after the ridiculous Sophie Khan interview on Newsnight re: the supposed dichotomy between a #Grenfell inquest and an independent public inquiry.
I question why BBC Newsnight would give a platform to someone who displays such a flagrantly incompetent understanding of the law, despite claiming to specialise in the relevant law, which has now led sincerely concerned members of the public down a bizarre garden path.
I was involved in the campaign for an independent public inquiry into the 7/7 terrorist attacks. WE NEVER GOT ONE. Instead, we got an inquest.
I wrote a report into the 7/7 attacks that was sponsored by Garden Court Chambers. The report was made mandatory reading for all legal counsel as part of the inquest proceedings. Despite that, virtually none of the key lines of inquiry set out in that report regarding the colossal and systemic failures of intelligence, counter-terrorism and foreign policy were actually pursued or resolved by the inquest. The findings of the inquest largely ignored key facts and evidence available to the inquest, and followed the line of the security services.
Meanwhile, many 7/7 survivors who had been denied a public inquiry and had pinned their last hope on the inquest were sorely disappointed that their burning questions remained unanswered.
The 7/7 inquest, for instance, exonerated the security services and attempted to resolve the question of the 'preventability' of the 2005 London bombings. It then concluded that there was no basis for an independent public inquiry, thus putting to bed the very possibility of a further wider public investigation - which was very much required (See for instance https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/sabir-on-security-5/)
1. A coroner's inquest into an event like this is a statutory requirement.
So really there is absolutely no reason why there will not be an inquest: "The Coroner is expected to open an inquest where there is reasonable suspicion that the deceased has died a violent or unnatural death, where the cause of death is unknown or if the deceased died while in custody or state detention as defined by section 1(2) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009."
2. An independent public inquiry does not rule out an inquest.
As the Law Gazette reported, human rights barrister Simon McKay clarifies that public inquiries and inquests are "not mutually exclusive".
But once an inquest takes place, as the 7/7 inquest shows, the inquest itself can fatally weaken the potential for a wider and more powerful public inquiry.
3. An independent public inquiry has a wider remit than an inquest and can still be chaired by an independent judge, with full legal representation for victims.
Sophie Khan's Newsnight interview was fundamentally misleading. It is simply false to claim so irresponsibly that a public inquiry would rule out an inquest. It is absurd to urge the public to demand an inquest instead of a public inquiry, when an inquest is precisely an expectation by law for incidents exactly like this. And therefore this Newsnight interview is a complete slap in the face to the victims of Grenfell.
I therefore question why Khan would put herself forward on Newsnight to air views which are fundamentally counterproductive to the interests of the victims and their families.
I question why the BBC's producers would allow this flagrantly legally inaccurate information to be broadcast as if it was factual.
I wonder how convenient it is for the Tory junta that Khan's misleading Newsnight interview has provoked some people to begin campaigning against an independent public inquiry.
I should probably add that Khan is a solicitor, not a barrister, unlike McKay. A barrister has specific expertise in the points of law and is the point of authority for any solicitor.
In conclusion: an independent public inquiry is urgently required. A coroner's inquest is also required, and is to be expected under the law. The police have already declared that they have launched a criminal investigation.
Please share this post so that members of the public can be informed of the facts and realities about this matter. Please don't start or support campaigns based on misleading claims made irresponsibly by self-promoters. Please support the victims and their families by supporting a unified call for an independent public inquiry and an inquest.
EXCLUSIVE: firm responsible for tower's fire alarms facing accusations it installed defective equipment in HUNDREDS of properties
BENEDICT MOORE-BRIDGER 4 hours ago
The firm behind the fire alarms at Grenfell Tower is facing a probe by fraud police Met Police
The contractor responsible for fire alarms at Grenfell Tower is being probed by fraud squad police after accusations it installed defective safety equipment in hundreds of London properties, a Standard investigation reveals today.
Housing services company Lakehouse is at the centre of a fraud inquiry after a three-year investigation by police and Hackney Council relating to a £184 million government grant to renovate council properties and install fire and smoke alarms and emergency lighting.
The company was identified by the Standard last week as the contractor responsible for testing and maintaining the fire alarms at Grenfell Tower, which some surviving residents claimed failed to go off in the tragic blaze.
Ten people have been arrested by police after Hackney Council received allegations of “fraud and overcharging” from whistleblowers.
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Council leader quits over Grenfell Tower disaster
Further investigation revealed some of the fire safety work was “defective, including incorrectly installed alarms and emergency lighting systems”. Lakehouse denies any wrong-doing.
The council has now written to 166 town hall chief executives warning them to check work done by Lakehouse and subcontractor Polyteck in case more homes could be at risk.
Warning: the letter sent by Hackney council
The letter, seen by the Standard, says council bosses “immediately notified the police” after discovering the work was substandard.
It says: “At all times, throughout this, our focus has been on the safety of our residents.
“We have no evidence to suggest that work carried out on contracts to other councils, by Lakehouse, or its subcontractor Polyteck, was in any way at fault, so we do not wish to cause undue alarm.
Emergency workers walk on the roof of the fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower (AP)
“However, we believe that as social landlords, after the Grenfell Tower tragedy we must share any information with each other that could potentially help to keep our residents safer.
“It is in this context that we are writing to you, so that if you have had fire safety works carried out by either of these contractors, you have a chance to check them carefully.”
Inside Grenfell Tower
The defective works were signed off by staff at Hackney Homes, the arms-length management organisation set up by the council in 2006 in order to receive its allocation of the government’s £1.6 billion Decent Homes programme to help councils raise the standards of its housing stock.
Sources close to the case said the allegations date back to the scheme’s inception in 2011.
A well-placed source told the Standard that payments had been made for work that allegedly was not done, including fire safety work.
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A look inside a flat offered to a family of Grenfell Tower survivors
The source said: “Clearly it has implications for the situation councils find themselves in now.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “We can confirm that in July 2014 Hackney Council referred an allegation of fraud to the Metropolitan Police Service’s Complex Fraud Team. An investigation was launched and enquiries are ongoing.
The charred shell of Grenfell Tower in west London (Reuters)
“A total of 10 people have been arrested as part of the investigation and two people interviewed under caution as part of the investigation.”
Three men aged 48, 39, and 34, were arrested on suspicion of bribery. Two were released from police bail but were “still under investigation”, while one was bailed until October pending further inquiries.
One man, aged 50, was arrested on suspicion of bribery and conspiracy to defraud and also released under investigation.
Three men aged 44, 39, and 38 were arrested on suspicion of bribery and bailed until November pending further inquiries.
Two women aged 45 and 36 were arrested on suspicion of money laundering and released under investigation, as was a 66-year-old-man who was arrested in connection with the investigation.
A media scrum at a Kensington and Chelsea council meeting in the wake of the fire (Getty Images)
Two men aged 42 and 62 were interviewed under caution on suspicion of bribery.
Founded in 1988 and with its headquarters in Romford, Essex, Lakehouse employs 2,400 people and has an annual turnover of more than £340 million.
In a statement, the firm said they “never comment on commercial relationships with clients” but that they “completely refute the allegations of fraud and the other matters relating to Lakehouse”.
They added: “We are aware on an ongoing police investigation and the company continues to fully cooperate with the Metropolitan Police in its investigation and support any actions taken against individuals in relation to the allegations which arose in 2013 and 2014.”
Council blocks in Camden were evacuated due to fears over their cladding in the wake of the Grenfell fire (EPA)
Hackney Council said it has been re-doing the fire safety work at 68 tower blocks “to a standard that was fully compliant with regulatory requirements and our specification, and at the contractors’ own expense”.
Hackney Homes was brought back in-house by the council in April 2016. Hackney’s elected mayor Philip Glanville told the Standard the council carried out a “wholesale restructure” of the surveyors’ team and said: “The majority of former Hackney Homes staff left the organisation.”
He added: “Grenfell and its aftermath raises many issues about the conduct of the construction industry, including sub-contractors, and also about arms-length management arrangements for housing.
“It is right that councils and social landlords should work together, share information and support each other to prevent future tragedies, which is why we have taken this action.”
Scores of blocks of flats across the UK have failed emergency fire safety tests carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster which killed an estimated 80 people.
Lakehouse, which has faced a number of difficulties since floating on the Stock Exchange two years ago - including issuing a series of profit warnings and enduring a boardroom battle with senior management leaving - did not declare its involvement in the tower when announcing its results to the Stock Exchange last week.
Firefighters work at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire in which at least 80 people died (Jeremy Selwyn)
While investigations into the inferno have so far focused on the cladding, it is expected that the role of fire alarms will also be closely scrutinised.
Lakehouse chairman Bob Holt said last week the company had not been asked to give evidence to any inquiry and said: “We are very happy because there have been many people saying they were woken by the alarms.”
Responding to today’s revelations, he said: “I have no comment to make.” The Standard has approached Polyteck for comment.
Retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, leading the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster, is preparing to consider the “broad” causes of the fire amid concern from survivors’ groups over its scope and leadership, and will scrutinise issues tracing back to building regulations at the time the block was erected.
Meanwhile Elizabeth Campbell, nominated to take over from Kensington and Chelsea leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, who resigned on Friday amid fierce criticism of the council’s response to the tragedy, said she was “truly sorry” and pledged to “heal the wounds” in the community. _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Robert Mendick, chief reporter 4 JULY 2017 • 9:21PM
The Grenfell Tower judge is being subjected to a politically-motivated witch hunt, his allies said yesterday, as a Labour MP demanded he be replaced by someone “who understands human beings”.
Friends of Sir Martin Moore-Bick have been taken aback by the sustained attacks on him since his appointment as Grenfell inquiry chairman just five days ago.
Rock Feilding-Mellen, until his resignation [pdf] on 30 June, was the deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea council. He had special responsibility for housing.
According to his council profile, Feilding-Mellen also sits on London Councils’ housing and economic development boards. Furthermore, he is a member of the LGA’s Urban Commission and has sat on its housing and environment board. However, it’s not known if he will be resigning from these bodies too, or whether he will also receive a payoff from Kensington & Chelsea.
It was Feilding-Mellen who was responsible for overseeing the refurbishment project of Grenfell Tower. The original submission [pdf] by architects Studio E for the refurbishment quoted [pdf, page 3] a zinc-based, non-combustible cladding. However a document shows that KCTMO pressed project management consultants Artelia UK to come up with cheaper figures on a range of items, including cladding.
As can be seen, by opting for the combustible cladding, just under £300,000 was saved:
Grenfell claddiing bid
According to The Times, documents from June and July 2014 show [paywall] Artelia UK apparently coming under pressure to reduce costs:
An ‘urgent nudge email’ about cladding prices from Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (KCTMO) to Artelia says: ‘We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow at 8.45am!’
The email lists three options for reducing the cost of cladding. Using aluminum panels rather than zinc would mean a “saving of £293,368”. Whereas the zinc panels would have been non-combustible, the aluminum eventually used had a flammable polyethylene core.
Artelia declined to discuss the matter with The Guardian, citing “a duty of confidentiality in its contract with KCTMO”.
But Feilding-Mellen’s resignation from Kensington & Chelsea will hardly see him penniless.
Rock Basil Hugo Feilding Mellen is the son of Joseph Chase Hurt Mellen and Amanda Claire Marian Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March. The family has royal/aristocratic connections, with a lineage that can be traced back to the Habsburg’s and to Charles II. One of Feilding-Mellen’s family homes is Beckley Park (image below), a Tudor hunting lodge with three towers and three moats, situated on the edge of a fen outside Oxford.
Another Feilding-Mellen property is Stanway House (Gloucestershire):
And there’s also Gosford House, Scotland:
Feilding-Mellen’s other interests
Rock Feilding-Mellen also heads a land development company. He is the owner and director [pdf] of Socially Conscious Capital (SCC). The company describes its core business as:
strategic land promotion: that is envisaging, master-planning, and securing planning permission for the creation of beautiful new places, often on the edge of existing villages, towns, or cities.
One such project is to advise on the planning aspects of a new village, with 450 homes at Longniddry, Scotland. This is not far from the Feilding-Mellen estate at Gosford, which includes a number of art works by Botticelli, Murillo and Rubens.
SCC has lodged a planning application for houses around Longniddry Farm, according to Herald Scotland.
However, a spokesperson for Listen to Longniddry, a group formed to campaign against the proposals, said:
A FIREMAN called for a halt to the policy of telling high-rise residents to remain in their homes during a blaze a year before the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Firefighters at a meeting of the Fire Brigade Union’s (FBU) National Health & Safety committee last June demanded the policy be suspended.
The London meeting also heard calls from members for an urgent review of high-rise evacuation policies.
Last week the FBU wrote to Prime Minster Theresa May saying firefighters and the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have “questions that need answering” about the tragedy.
Many are angry Grenfell residents were ordered to stay in their flats during the blaze, in which 79 people are believed to have died.
Numerous fire safety concerns have been raised and the Government’s response has been criticised.
The FBU are calling for a “broad inquiry” into building regulations and
planning policy – including probing the long-held policy of “stay put”.
But it’s now been revealed the FBU were talking about the policy 12 months ago after a firefighter highlighted concerns in a report.
The report was prompted by a study into a building that collapsed in New York in 2001 during the 9/11 terror attack.
World Trade Centre Building 7 – not one of the Twin Towers – collapsed during a fire and was not struck by a plane.
An official report by the US Government’s National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) found the 47-storey building collapsed due to an office fire breaking out – believed to be the first instance of the total collapse of a tall building primarily due to fires.
Last year, the FBU’s National Health & Safety team heard claims the fire services could not continue with the “stay put” policy after the NIST findings.
The report concluded that: “Buildings at risk include multistorey car parks, large steel portal frames and steel-framed high rise offices, flats and hotels.
“If normal office fires can cause this to happen to steelframed buildings, it is a significant risk we should be exploring on behalf of our members.
“If there is a risk of this happening again, the safety of our firefighters depends upon us being prepared.”
Report author Paul Kayley said the findings showed “stay put” policies were “dangerous”.
He said: “If a modern class-A fire protected structure can catastrophically fail due to fire, stay-put policies are dangerous, with or without unsafe exterior cladding.”
But Dave Sibert, the FBU’s fire safety advisor, challenged that view.
He said: “The ‘stay put’ policy does not need reviewing.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 15218 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:30 pm Post subject:
Grenfell Tower families still without homes as Theresa May misses rehousing deadline
In the days after the tragedy the PM said residents of the tower would be rehoused within three weeks at the latest, but London mayor Sadiq Khan says no permanent homes have been found
The Prime Minister's three-week deadline for rehousing families forced from their homes by the Grenfell Tower tragedy has been missed with none of them found permanent accommodation in that time, the mayor of London said.
In the days after the blaze Theresa May said residents of the tower would be rehoused within three weeks at the latest.
But, speaking at Mayor's Question Time on Thursday, Sadiq Khan said, four weeks on from the tragedy, not enough has been done to find new homes for the Grenfell survivors.
He said: "It is clear much more needs to be done to find appropriate housing for Grenfell survivors.
"The Prime Minister's deadline of three weeks for everyone to be rehoused nearby has passed.
Grenfell Tower mum who lost unborn baby reveals he may have been poisoned by cyanide released in blaze
Sadiq Khan says 'much more needs to be done' to help the families (Image: Getty Images Europe)
"And yet, as the deadline was reached, just three households had moved into new temporary accommodation and no families had moved into permanent housing."
Around 255 survivors escaped Grenfell Tower which contained 129 flats.
Mr Khan also criticised Kensington and Chelsea Council, saying residents had no confidence in it.
He said: "I have been to North Kensington many times since the fire.
"Kensington and Chelsea Council are inept, they are incompetent and they are close to being useless in the eyes of the residents. And I concur with the residents.
"They have been missing in action, they have failed to provide the residents with the support they need."
Grenfell Tower survivor, 12, being treated for cyanide poisoning after fears burning cladding released highly toxic gas
Khan accused Kensington and Chelsea Council of being 'inept' (Image: Getty Images Europe)
Mr Khan said the Government could have sent in commissioners to help in the aftermath of the tragedy, but had instead struck a backroom deal with the leadership.
He also said he had asked the fire commissioner for an urgent review into the equipment she thinks she needs, in light of the disaster.
He continued: "I have written the Home Secretary asking for extra support financially to make sure our fire services have the support they need."
On Wednesday, hundreds of mourners gathered at a wall plastered in tributes in the west London neighbourhood to mark four weeks since the blaze.
Among those at the vigil was Emma Dent Coad, the newly elected MP for the area, who told the Press Association: "It is still chaotic, the whole process of housing people, getting them social housing, mental health help, whatever other help they are getting, obviously the people who aren't getting help come to me.
Officials at Kensington and Chelsea council are withdrawing documents sent to Grenfell Tower survivors that they feared could have waived their legal rights in return for receiving emergency payments, the Guardian has learned.
A letter sent from the council this week to families affected by the fire asked survivors to sign a form confirming receipt of the emergency “compensation” money. The form stated: “I confirm that this is required to compensate me for expenses I have incurred or need to incur as a consequence of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”
The document was in addition to the one sent by the Department for Work and Pensions after the prime minister announced the first £5,500 payments in the wake of the disaster, which killed at least 79 people in the west London tower block.
Survivors said they had not been told why they were asked to sign a separate form for the council when the emergency payments were coming from central government. They and their lawyers feared the council form might hamper them from taking any future legal action against the royal borough as a result of the fire.
“The form the council has circulated has increased our anxiety and distress at a time when we are all already deeply traumatised,” said one resident.
A team of black and minority ethnic lawyers are supporting the survivors, many of whom are from similar backgrounds.
The lawyers called for the forms to be withdrawn immediately, and the fire response team, based at Westminster council, commenting on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea, has now confirmed that is happening.
“We utterly condemn the requirement being placed on residents of Grenfell Tower to sign a declaration in order to receive an emergency payment of £5,000 which refers to the payment as ‘compensation’ and states nothing to protect the rights of those who receive it,” the lawyers said in a statement to the Guardian.
“An apology must also be made to those residents who were asked to sign in the absence of legal advice, without any translation into their first language (where appropriate). For survivors who have lost every single possession anything less is simply a disgrace that would add insult to injury.”
Ismet Rawat, president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said: “We are deeply concerned that victims were presented with this document without any regard for their vulnerability. As BME lawyers we will continue to protect the rights of the victims and take legal action if necessary.”
In a statement to parliament on Thursday, the prime minister said of the emergency payments: “It is absolutely essential, Mr Speaker, that people understand they can keep the money they receive – that these grants are not loans and they will not be expected to repay a single penny. Neither are they waiving any legal rights as a result of accepting this financial help.”
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