Lawyers representing a survivor of the Grenfell Tower disaster tried to persuade a court to give him anonymity when he appeared and admitted a charge of being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
Failing that, they said, the media should be banned from reporting that police had found butane gas cannisters in the burned-out wreckage of Eamon Zada’s flat.
There were fears that the presence of butane canisters could be linked to the blaze and make Zada, 35, who is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower inquiry, a target for vigilante attacks, it was argued.
The application for an order under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 to give Zada anonymity was made when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
Zada’s lawyers argued that the presence of butane gas cannisters in his flat would mean victims and the public would try to apportion blame to him for the speed at which the deadly blaze spread.
Activist and volunteer Alexandra Hanson told the court that on a silent commemorative walk in Lancaster Road, north Kensington, last September she saw “a group whose behaviour and body language was quite different from everyone else”.
She went on: “They were talking loudly about butane canisters, swearing – they were using terms along the lines of, when they found out who was responsible for this there was going to be trouble.
“They used words that made me feel that person’s life was in danger and their faces were covered.
“They were quite rowdy and talking repeatedly about butane canisters, making multiple threats.”
She would have concerns for Zada’s safety, she said, adding: “I would be extremely worried about his safety and his own anxiety and mental health.”
District Judge Judge Tan Ikram rejected the application, saying: “Much may be said during the inquiry and at meetings but that’s not enough for this court to resile from the principle of open justice.”
Zada, who is currently being housed at the Raddison Blu hotel in Portman Square, Marylebone, faces the possibility of a jail sentence after admitting having been concerned in the supply of cannabis on or before 4 July last year.
Investigators found the remains of his cannabis oil factory – a store of cannabis cuttings, butane gas canisters and an oven – in his wrecked flat.
Zada had produced enough cannabis oil to last one user 140 days, the court was told.
Grenfell Tower caught fire on June 14 last year, killing 71 people and leaving hundreds more homeless.
Prosecutor Maxine Channer-McDaniel told the court the cannabis was stored in the second bedroom, while an oven was found in the living room and the gas canisters were stored in the kitchen.
Zada, who had told police he had been a regular user of cannabis since the age of 12, was remanded until 6 March for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay