A retired Court of Appeal judge who was once accused of “social cleansing” has been appointed to lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, 70, who left the bench last December, was criticized in a 2014 case after allowing a London council to rehouse a single mother with five children 50 miles away—a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court. After the initial ruling, Hodge Jones & Allen, the law firm representing the family, said that the judgment would “give the green light for councils to engage in social cleansing of the poor on a mass scale.” Moore-Bick is widely respected within the legal profession, however, and was recommended for the role by the Lord Chief Justice, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph.
Before being appointed to the high court in 1995, Moore-Bick was a barrister, specializing in commercial and shipping law, and also held a number of senior positions within the judiciary, including deputy head of civil justice and vice president of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal. He continues to accept appointments as an arbitrator at 20 Essex Street chambers. (Barristers are specialist U.K. advocates who represent clients in court, typically operating independently from stand-alone “chambers” instead of law firms.)
The fire at London’s Grenfell Tower, which broke out on June 14, claimed the lives of at least 80 people. Police have said that the final death toll will not be known until the end of the year.
A number of firms and lawyers have offered free legal services to those affected by the disaster, while the U.K. government has confirmed that families will be granted legal aid for representation during the investigation.
The tragedy has led to a wide-ranging review of fire safety at tower blocks across the U.K., with alarming results. More than 120 high-rise buildings in England have so far failed the safety inspections.
Several U.S. law firms are currently looking into shareholder claims against Arconic—the New York-based manufacturer of the cladding used on Grenfell and various other tower blocks, which has been blamed for the fire’s rapid spread across the building.
Arconic recently announced that it was ceasing sale of the Reynobond PE material worldwide. The company’s share price has since fallen by 15 percent, wiping $1 billion from its market cap, and earlier this week was the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 for two consecutive days.