Publicspirited officials can make a difference to Grenfell Tower public inquiry says security expert

A University of Leicester expert in security and disaster management has welcomed the Government’s announcement of a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, arguing that history has shown that public-spirited officials can be successful in holding those responsible to account.

Dr Simon Bennett, Director of our Civil Safety and Security Unit, argues that a robust and wide-ranging investigation has proven to be an effective method of establishing the reasons behind a disaster in the past, but its impact is reliant upon how wide-ranging that investigation is permitted to be.

Dr Bennett said: “Understanding what went wrong at Grenfell Tower requires a wide-ranging systems-thinking-informed investigation able to take account of pertinent social, economic and political factors. For example, the impact of successive governments' deregulation and cost-cutting agendas on health and safety standards and the capacity of agencies to enforce those standards.

"Following Canada's 1989 Dryden air disaster, a judge-led Commission of Inquiry was convened. In 1995, the judge, The Honourable Mr Justice Virgil P. Moshansky, described how those with vested interests had attempted to undermine his investigation: "Counsel for the regulator attempted to limit the scope of the Inquiry with threats to limit my mandate by seeking an order in the Federal Court". Moshansky stood his ground. Three years later he produced a watershed systems-thinking-informed analysis that implicated Canada's entire aviation system, including the government, regulator and airline industry, in the disaster. The lessons? First, in the aftermath of disaster, those with something to lose may resort to underhand tactics. Secondly, public-spirited officials (like Moshansky) can make a difference.”