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Sat March 28 2020

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Grenfell inquiry witnesses granted immunity

27 Feb Individuals cooperating with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry have been granted immunity from prosecution for any crimes they admit to. But the organisations that employ or employed them will enjoy no such protection.

The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire resumes on Monday 2nd March after a three-week break while an application for witness immunity was considered.

Certain individuals and organisations, some of whom had already become substantially incriminated by early statements and the reveal of relevant documents, had asked for immunity from prosecution in exchange for their continued cooperation with the inquiry.

The right to silence lest one incriminate oneself is firmly enshrined in UK law. Thus there are strong precedents for immunity in public inquiries where getting the full facts is considered more important than getting someone into jail. However, the request for immunity naturally proved hard to swallow for the fire survivors and bereaved families.

New attorney general Suella Braverman wrote to the inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick yesterday agreeing to immunity to individuals but not to corporate entities.

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She said that she took into consideration all representations received, including those from victims and their representatives. She also consulted the director of public prosecutions, the Health & Safety Executive and the Metropolitan Police.

The attorney general concluded that without immunity, some witnesses would be likely to decline to give evidence.

She said: “In making this decision I have had the victims of the fire and their loved ones at the forefront of my mind. I cannot begin to imagine what they have gone through and I know that the issue of an undertaking will have caused them further anguish.

“The undertaking I am providing to the Inquiry means it can continue to take evidence from witnesses who otherwise would likely refuse to answer questions. These questions are important to finding out the truth about the circumstances of the fire. The undertaking will not jeopardise the police investigation or prospects of a future criminal prosecution.”

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