Grenfell Tower Inquiry on hold until July at earliest amid coronavirus pandemic

Grenfell Tower, pictured in April 2020 Image copyright Getty Images

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry will not resume until July at the earliest, organisers have said.

The second phase of the probe into the west London tower block fire was halted in March over coronavirus restrictions.

After consultation, consensus from core participants was to resume hearings with limited attendance when social restrictions are partially lifted, the inquiry said.

The fire at the 24-storey tower killed 72 people in June 2017.

The inquiry panel have signalled there may be a long wait for hearings to resume.

In a statement posted on Tuesday, the inquiry panel said it could not make “any firm prediction” about when it would be possible to implement limited attendance hearings “as this is dependent on when and how government restrictions are lifted and public health considerations generally”.

It added: “The earliest the panel considers it will be possible to resume hearings is July, as it is likely to take up to a month to reorganise the inquiry’s premises in an appropriate way and to reschedule the witnesses.”

Hearings were halted on 15 March by chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick as coronavirus swept through Europe, with at least one panel member falling ill with suspected Covid-19 and concerns over the safety of other participants.

The panel had spent more than a month hearing evidence from witnesses to examine the circumstances and causes of the fire before proceedings were drawn to an abrupt end.

In April, the inquiry wrote to key witnesses and victims with three options for how evidence may continue being heard.

As well as resuming with limited attendance when rules are partially relaxed, it was considering the possibility of carrying on remotely via video and suspending hearings entirely until social distancing rules are lifted.

Government shielding advice is being reviewed but currently means Sir Martin and the lawyer for victims and the bereaved, Michael Mansfield QC, should be staying at home, as they are both over 70 years old.

After considering the night of the fire during the initial phase of the inquiry, the focus switched in January with the hearings focusing on the refurbishment of the building in North Kensington and its role in the fire, and issues surrounding building regulations.