Grenfell Tower fire: First stage of public inquiry due to begin

Charlotte Lomas, Sky Correspondent

The first stage of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry, which begins today, will provide information about its intended time-frame and structure.

:: My uncle died alone in his flat in Grenfell Tower

There will be no evidence heard during the procedural hearing at Holborn Bars in central London but many of the bereaved families and survivors of the fire are hoping they will hear more about the role they will play when the inquiry gets going early next year.

For those people affected by the Grenfell fire and living in the community, the initial hearings are highly anticipated and significant.

Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle in the blaze, says it marks a big step forward.

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"This is now the beginning of a long journey for justice and will obviously run alongside the criminal investigation," he said.

"We want to see how the hearings will be controlled and conducted, how much involvement we will have, what will the judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, be like and his assessors. There are a lot of expectations."

For Karim the most important aspect, however, is to see if the bereaved families will be listened to.

With the support of other families, he has set up a petition calling on the Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint an independent panel to sit alongside the judge and be able to observe the decisions he makes.

So far the petition has attracted more than 15,000 signatures, including singer Adele and actor Noel Clarke, but Karim says he is yet to have even an acknowledgement from Downing Street.

"There feels like there's a major detachment between the Government and those running the public inquiry and us, so we feel an independent panel is very important to make us feel we have some participation and confidence that our concerns will be listened to."

When Sky News pressed the Government for comment, a Government spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister has given a commitment to consider the inquiry panel after the chair determined what further expertise he required and this process is ongoing.

"We would like to assure all those affected by the tragedy that legal representatives of core participants will receive all relevant evidence, be able to offer opening and closing statements at hearings and will be able to suggest lines of questioning for witnesses."

Nicolette Del Gallo, a local volunteer who helps support survivors, says she is worried about the legal support some families have received.

She said: "I'm increasingly concerned at the number of families who don't have adequate and specialised legal representation, who haven't received interim payments that would be enough to put them into private rental now.

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"There is a grave need for housing. I'm appalled that the inquiry documents have so many criteria as to what is acceptable for people to ask questions about.

"The support system has failed from day one and it is continuing to do so in various areas. The community needs to be listened to directly."