DWF advises Kensington and Chelsea Council as Grenfell Tower fire inquiry gets underway

DWF is advising Kensington and Chelsea Council as the inquiry into this June’s Grenfell Tower disaster, which resulted in the deaths of at least 80 people in North Kensington, gets underway today (14 September).

The law firm’s role was confirmed by the council following a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Legal Week, which also revealed that northeast law firm Wilkin Chapman has been consulted by the council, although the exact nature of the firm’s role is unclear.

DWF head of regulatory Steffan Groch is leading the firm’s team acting for Kensington and Chelsea Council.

In 2012, a DWF team led by Groch advised Lion Steel Equipment on its £480,000 fine for the corporate manslaughter of an employee who died following a workplace accident. The case was only the third time a company in the UK was convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which came into force in 2008.

A spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea Council said: “The council has an in-house legal team and for specialist matters also engages external legal advice from time to time.”

The inquiry into the fire was opened today (14 September) by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who is chairing the inquiry panel alongside barristers Richard Millett QC of Essex Court Chambers, Lamb Building’s Bernard Richmond QC, Kate Grange QC of 39 Essex Chambers, and solicitor to the inquiry Caroline Featherstone.

Featherstone, a former senior solicitor in the Government Legal Department, is working with a team of three solicitors including Cathy Kennedy and Shafi Nasser, both of who also come from the Government Legal Department.

Andrew Kinnier of Henderson Chambers and Rose Grogan of 39 Essex Chambers are serving as junior counsel to the inquiry, while criminal defence specialist Zeenat Islam of 25 Bedford Row is working in conjunction with Bernard Richmond QC.

In his opening statement to the inquiry today, Sir Martin said: ”The purpose of the inquiry is to find out what had happened and why it had happened, with a view to ensuring that a similar catastrophe could never occur again.

“The role of solicitors and counsel to the Inquiry is not to promote any particular conclusion or result, still less to favour any particular witness or class of witnesses. Rather, it is to place before me and before the public evidence that will enable me to make findings about what occurred and put forward recommendations for the future.

“They will do that by presenting the evidence in public hearings and by questioning those witnesses whom I decide should be called to give oral evidence. When required, they will also provide me with impartial advice on matters of law and procedure.”

The make-up of the inquiry panel has been challenged by a group of ethnic minority lawyers, BMELawyers4Grenfell, which filed an application for permission to apply for judicial review based on concerns over the lack of ethnic diversity among the panel. However, that application has now been rejected, according to legal news website Legal Voice.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, law firms rushed to contribute to the support effort, with Allen & Overy, Linklaters, Eversheds Sutherland and Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer among a raft of firms donating to the Evening Standard’s fundraising effort. Ashurst and Ropes & Gray also seconded a pro bono manager to North Kensington Law Centre, which helped to coordinate the legal response.

In late June, a number of US law firms announced that they would be looking into shareholder claims relating to the disaster, following the decision by the New York-based manufacturer of the building’s controversial cladding to halt sales of the product.

Wilkin Chapman has been approached for comment.