Christ’s fellow to head Grenfell Tower inquiry

The retired judge has attracted controversy for his previous rulings

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The government has today announced that retired judge and Christ’s college alumnus and honorary fellow Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been chosen to head the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

The ex-Deputy Head of the Court of Appeal has been picked to lead the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower block disaster despite concerns of his previous rulings on housing cases.

Sir Martin, 70, is a widely respected figure among the judiciary, praised for having ‘no self regard’ and being ‘the perfect tribunal judge.’ However, Theresa May’s pick has attracted muted criticism from within Downing Street over his suitability.

An initial delay in the picking of Moore-Bick (despite his recommendation by senior judiciary figures) stems from previous rulings made in relation to eviction cases. In 2014 he presided in an appeal court case between Westminster Council and Titina Nzo-lameso, a tenant facing homelessness after being refused rehousing in Milton Keynes, over 50 miles away. Moore-Bick ruled in favour of the Council, a decision eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. With Grenfell residents demanding rehousing within the borough, there is concern the Christ’s alumni may be unsuitable given his track record.

Sir Martin came to Christ’s in 1965 before a career as a Queen’s Counsel barrister and then a judge. Prior to his retirement, he was one of most senior and respected judges in the UK, receiving a knighthood in 1995 following his appointment to the high court. He was made an honorary fellow of Christ’s college in 2009.

Much of Sir Martin’s late career comprised legal challenges against Cabinet ministers. In May 2014, he ruled against then home secretary Theresa May on the issue of foreign prisoner detention, while in August 2014 he ruled that a Chinese burglar be deported despite having children born in the country.

Many among the legal profession have defended the judges appointment, citing his experience and nature as being suitable to the inquiry. A judicial source told the Times “He is courteous, measured, and he will be empathetic without being mawkish. He is no one’s pushover.”

Ultimately, with a sensitive issue such as this, all cannot be satisfied.