Theresa May names the judge who will lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire

Tributes to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
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Theresa May has named the judge who will lead the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The prime minister announced that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will be in charge of the probe, announced the day after the west London tower block burned down earlier this month.

Moore-Bick, 70, is a retired judge who used to sit on the Court of Appeal, the second-highest legal authority in England and Wales.

He will chair a major investigation into the fire, which has so far claimed at least 80 lives. He will be able to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, to seize documents and to make them public.

Previous public inquiries have been held into issues including press ethics and the Iraq war.

However, Moore-Bick suggested that the scope of his inquiry may be narrower than some residents hope.

On a visit to the site on Thursday, he told the Press Association: “I’ve been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development in order to make recommendations about how this sort of thing can be prevented in future.”

He nonetheless promised a “vigorous inquiry that gets to the truth as quickly as possible.”

In a written statement to Parliament, May described Moore-Bick as “highly respected and hugely experienced” and pledged that “no stone will be left unturned” in the probe.

She added: “I am determined that there will be justice for all the victims of this terrible tragedy and for their families who have suffered so terribly.”

Such inquiries can often take years to reach their final conclusions, but May said there will be an interim report “as early as possible.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan and others have called for early findings to be published this summer.

Moore-Bick ruling scrutinised

Moore-Bick has come under scrutiny in relation to a previous case where he ruled against a vulnerable woman, and in favour of her local council, only to have the decision overturned.

According to The Times, in 2014 Moore-Bick ruled against Titina Nzolameso, who was at risk of homelessness after she objected to Westminster Council’s attempts to rehouse her in Milton Keynes, some 50 miles away. The decision was later reversed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police is continuing a criminal investigation into the fire, which is expected to last for many months.

Police officials briefing the media on Wednesday said the final death toll – which some residents have suggested is unrealistically low – may not be known until 2018.