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Grenfell survivors ‘pivotal’ in deciding representation

Victims must be ‘equally involved’ in appointing advocate for inquiry

30 June 2017

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The voices of the bereaved and injured must be ‘pivotal’ in deciding who represents them in the Grenfell Tower inquiry, the Law Society has said, following comments by the solicitor general.

Speaking in parliament on 29 June, Robert Buckland QC MP said it was of ‘paramount importance that bereaved families and injured people are properly involved and supported following a disaster’.

The introduction of an ‘independent public advocate’ for all public disasters was announced in the Queen’s speech earlier this month. The government said the advocate will act on the behalf of bereaved families and also support them at public inquests.

The advocate will be able to access information held by public bodies and will, where appropriate, report on or share that information with representatives of the victims, according to the Queen’s Speech briefing notes.

‘We welcome the government’s reassurance that the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will be involved and supported during the public inquiry and hope that the victims are equally involved in decisions about appointing their representative for the inquiry,’ said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

‘They must be free to choose an independent public advocate who has their full confidence and who they trust to amplify their voices and views as well as to ensure that those truly and ultimately responsible are found.

‘An expert in housing law with a history of fighting for disadvantaged tenants would be well placed to fulfil this role, though the bereaved and injured may have other criteria that are equally important to them.’

Commenting on news of the public advocate at the time, Hilary Meredith, chair at Hilary Meredith Solicitors, said: ‘If ever there was an occasion for legal representation it surely must be for bereaved families faced with corporations employing the best lawyers in what has become a complex inquest system.

‘A government appointed advocate for inquests is not the way forward, however. Any advocate appointed by the state will be viewed with suspicion by the bereaved family.

‘For example, would the Grenfell Tower families trust a government appointed advocate to act in their best interests? Most certainly not.’

Image © ChiralJon

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor of Solicitors Journal

john.vanderluit@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @JvdLD

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