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Tue June 18 2024

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Grenfell Inquiry sets publication date

24 May The official Grenfell Tower Inquiry will publish its phase 2 report on Wednesday 4th September 2024.

Any prosecutions relating to the Grenfell Tower fire will not begin until 2027, it has emerged.

When Grenfell Tower in Kensington caught fire on the night of 14th June 2017, fire and smoke spread more quickly than expected because a dangerous cladding system had been installed in a botched effort to improve the council flats. The cladding was flammable and the gaps between the cladding panels and the original concrete walls created chimney vents to accelerate smoke.

That night 70 people lost their lives in the building, some trapped and some following fire brigade orders to stay put. Two more people died later as a result of the fire.

On 15th June 2017, the day after the fire, the then prime minister announced a public inquiry.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry was set up on 15th August 2017 with Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a former Lord Justice of Appeal, in the chair. Hearings for Phase 1 began in May 2018 and concluded in December 2018. The chairman published his Phase 1 report in October 2019.

Phase 2 hearings concluded in November 2022.

Where phase 1 focused on the factual narrative of the events, phase 2 examined the causes of these events, exploring the roles, competences and motives of the various designers and contractors behind the ill-fated tower refurbishment, and the suppliers and manufacturers of materials that were not suitable for purpose.

We know much of this already, from the public hearings. But when Sir Martin Moore-Bick published his phase 2 report on Wednesday 4th September 2024, process of bring the guilty to account will begin.

The Metropolitan Police has also released an update this week, saying that it will take the investigation team at least 12-18 months to fully assess the inquiry’s report and complete evidential files to present to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions.

Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said: “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.

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“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.”

So far, eight of 20 early investigative advice files have been submitted to the CPS with 12 other files in advanced stages of preparation. Each file examines a full range of offences including corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and health and safety offences.

The covering report alone for just one of those advice files is 535 pages long and references more than 1,200 supporting evidential documents. Printed out, that file, in relation to just one company and its employees, stands at almost 7ft high, the Met Police said.

Even when the Crown Prosecution Service gets all the relevant paperwork, it will take more months of work to pin down exactly who to prosecute and for what offences.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “The police anticipate sending complete files of evidence to us by 2026.

“There is great benefit in this case that we have been working closely with police throughout and will therefore be in a strong position to consider the final evidential files when they have been completed.

“However, as you will appreciate, due to the sheer volume of substantial evidence, there is still a lot of work to be done in reaching any charging decisions.

“It is our hope that by the end of 2026, we will be in a position where we are making decisions.

“As you will appreciate it is not possible to provide any timescales on our charging decisions, so we will not be able to give a definitive date on when everything will be completed but our team of specialist prosecutors will need time to review the final file carefully and thoroughly before making their decisions."

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