Infected blood and pandemic bereaved join Grenfell survivors in call for justice

A crowd walked in silence from Notting Hill Methodist Church near the site of the fire on June 14 in 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Bereaved who lost loved ones in the Infected Blood scandal and during the pandemic have gathered in solidarity with those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire seven years on from the disaster.

Campaigners came together as “victims of the state” to make their demand that recommendations from public inquiries must not be allowed to be delayed or ignored, citing the need for action and change.

The crowd, many wearing green, walked in silence from Notting Hill Methodist Church near the site of the fire on June 14 in 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Some carried placards reading “safe and secure homes for all” and “justice for Grenfell”.

Sandra Ruiz, whose 12-year-old niece Jessica Urbano Ramirez died in the fire, said it is “hugely important” that campaigners from various groups have come together to call for justice.

Tower block fire in London
People take part in a silent walk near Grenfell Tower (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Ruiz, a community representative to the Grenfell Tower memorial commission, said: “What all of these things have shown is that leadership in this country is broken. It’s also lost its ethics.”

She said people feel “disheartened because there’s not been enough progress” and due to a lack of convictions for what happened at Grenfell.

Last month the Metropolitan Police said their investigators need until the end of 2025 to finalise their inquiry, and prosecutors will then need a year to decide whether charges can be brought.

Bereaved and survivors have described that wait, which could stretch to a decade after the catastrophic fire, as “unbearable”.

Grenfell United, which represents many of the bereaved and survivors, has also been calling for a national oversight mechanism – an independent public body – to be put in place, responsible for collating, analysing and following up on recommendations from public inquiries.

Five years after 15 recommendations from phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry were made specifically directed at the Government, four remain outstanding, including introducing a legal obligation on landlords to provide personal emergency evacuation plans (Peeps) for disabled tenants.

Former tower resident and Grenfell United member Edward Daffarn has branded it “nothing short of a scandal” that “disabled people living in high rise buildings are in just as much danger today as they were prior to the Grenfell Tower fire”.

Tower block fire in London
Members of the public at the memorial at the base of Grenfell Tower in London in remembrance of those who died (Yui Mok/PA)

Fellow campaigners Lobby Akinnola, on behalf of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice (CBFFJ) UK, and Jason Evans, who is director of the Factor 8 campaign group, have both backed the call for the national oversight mechanism.

Mr Akinnola, who lost his father in the pandemic, said he is “honoured to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Grenfell survivors, and all victims of state failures who continue to fight for justice and reform”.

He said he does not want to have to spend “the rest of my life fighting for recommendations to be implemented” when the ongoing UK Covid-19 Inquiry concludes its various modules and issues its reports.

Mr Evans, who was just four years old when he lost his father through the Infected Blood Scandal, said inquiries must not be allowed to be “just a tool for governments to distance themselves from these issues, both in a responsibility context and in terms of time”.

Grenfell United has also backed calls for a Hillsborough Law, which would, under the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill, include a legal duty of candour on public authorities and officials to tell the truth and proactively co-operate with official investigations and inquiries.

Labour’s manifesto, published on Thursday, committed to bringing in such a law, but campaigners have said that would be “only part of the picture” and that a national oversight mechanism is vital to ensure recommendations are followed through.

The final report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will be published in September.

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