Judge refuses to bring forward Lakanal inquest
The judge presiding over the inquest into the six deaths in a south London tower block fire has decided not to bring forward the inquest.
The Crown Prosecution Service revealed at the start of last month it would not press manslaughter charges over the deaths at Lakanal House in Camberwell on 3 July 2009.
This raised hopes Judge Frances Kirkham would hold the ‘super inquest’ this year but at a pre-inquest hearing this morning she said there was too much to prepare and gave the start date for 14 January. She said that it should not go on for more than three months, finishing by Easter.
‘I simply do not think it’s realistic to bring it forward,’ she told the pre-inquest hearing at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.
John Handy QC, barrister for family members of those who died, told Inside Housing: ‘It’s very upsetting. They have been waiting for three years. It’s a long time, and they will have to relive it all again.’
Judge Kirkham also decided to delay whether to grant ‘properly interested person status’ to Sceaux Gardens Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, which represents people living in a nearby identical block to Lakanal House, Marie Curie.
This would mean they would have legal representation at the inquest, and be able to cross-examine witnesses. Two of the three solicitors representing family members of those who died supported the application, but the other, Sophie Khan, told the pre-inquest hearing: ‘Their concerns do not fall within the realms of this investigation.’
MP for Camberwell Harriet Harman is supporting the residents’ applications. Judge Kirkham said she would inform them in writing of her decision in the next couple of days.
She also denied a similar request from a fire expert with 50 years of experience, Ronnie King, who is currently administrative secretary of an all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group and inspected Lakanal House after the fire.
Judge Kirkham said she proposed to appoint a fire safety expert from New Zealand for the inquest. There will be another pre-inquest hearing at the end of October or start of November. The date is yet to be set.