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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Martin Bentham

Grenfell fire: 58 people and 19 companies face potential charges over tragedy, Met reveals

A total of 58 people and 19 companies have been identified as suspects who could face charges over the Grenfell fire disaster, the Met said on Wednesday as it vowed to continue the fight to obtain justice for the victims’ families.

In a Scotland Yard briefing, the force said it had already “submitted eight of 20 advice files to the Crown Prosecution Service” and interviewed more than 50 suspects under caution for a total of more than 300 hours over the tragedy, which claimed 72 lives as fire ripped through the tower block in west London on 14 June, 2017.

But it also warned that despite the progress in its investigation – which has also included more than a year of forensic examination of the devastated tower block – it will be at least the end of 2025 before it can complete the probe and be in a position to hand “evidential files” to prosecutors for charging decisions.

That means that because prosecutors are also likely to take months to decide on any cases submitted to them, and the long Crown Court trial backlog, it is almost certain to be at least two years – and potentially much longer – before any suspects enter the dock.

That will take it close to a decade since the disaster before any offenders are brought to justice in a blow to survivors and the families and friends of victims who have lpong been calling for prosecutions.

Giving details of the investigation on Wednesday, Met deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said the delay in being able to consider charges was the result of the complexity of the investigation and the need to consider the final findings of the public inquiry into the disaster, which have yet to be published.

He apologised to the bereaved and survivors and said he could not “pretend to imagine the impact of such a long police investigation on them” but emphasised that police were determined to pursue justice.

The fire on 14 June, 2017, claimed 72 lives (PA)

“Those who are most deeply affected have our commitment that we are doing all we can to get this investigation right, “he said.

“We owe that to those who died and all those affected by the tragedy. We are moving as quickly as we can, but we must be thorough and diligent in our investigation.

“This is one of the largest and most complex investigations ever undertaken by the Met, the scale and legal complexity is immense. We have been working since the night of the fire to leave no stone unturned in our investigation into what happened.

“Based on where we are today, we believe it will take us at least until the end of 2025 to fully assess the public inquiry’s phase 2 report and finalise evidential files to present to the CPS for charging decisions. We have updated the bereaved and survivors with our expected timescales and we know how long this sounds, on top of the very long time they have already waited.

“To provide some context, the inquiry’s phase 1 report was more than 800 pages long. We expect the phase 2 report will be substantially longer and much more complex. We must fully assess the findings of the report – line by line - against the evidence we have gathered in our investigation.

“It’s very possible we will then need to explore further evidence and witnesses, and interview some or all of the criminal suspects again.”

The Met said it had spent £107 million on the investigation so far.

Firefighters join bereaved family members at the tribute wall near to Grenfell Tower (Jamie Wiseman)

Rosemary Ainslie, the head of special crime at the CPS, said that prosecutors would need to examine the police file but hoped that it would be possible to announce charging decisions by the end of 2026.

The Met said offences being investigated including corporate manslaughter, corporate fraud and misconduct in public office.

A public inquiry was announced the day after the fire by the then Prime Minister Theresa May as calls began for those responsible for the failings which caused the tragedy to be identified and brought to justice.

The inquiry has published initial “phase one” findings but admitted in an update last month that it will be unable to produce its planned report on the outcome of its second phase in time for next month’s anniversary of the tragedy.

It said the reason was that the process of writing to “about 250 people” who may be subject to criticism so that they could provide their responses had been “significantly larger and more complex than we had originally expected”.

The inquiry has so far disclosed more than 320,000 documents relating to its investigation into the tragedy and has 638 “core participants” including contractors involved in construction and maintenance of the tower block, Kensington and Chelsea council, the London Fire Brigade, the Met, and individuals affected by the disaster.

The inquiry’s report on its first phase was published in 2019 and detailed how the fire spread and flaws in the response to the conflagration.

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