What next after the four-year Grenfell fire inquiry ends?
Final ruling not expected until next year when police will decide on criminal charges
Victims of the Grenfell Tower fire still “face a long wait for justice” even though Thursday marked the end of the public inquiry’s evidential hearings.
Closing statements following the 308 days of evidence sessions, which took place over a four-year period, will be heard in November. The chairman of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Martin Moore-Bick, and his team of lawyers are already working on their final report.
Moore-Bick, a retired Court of Appeal judge, described drawing conclusions for the report as “a task of considerable proportions”. His team has more than 300,000 documents and 1,500 witness statements to assess, with their final ruling on what caused the events in June 2017 not expected to be published until at least next year.
The eventual report will be crucial for the Metropolitan Police, said The Guardian’s social affairs correspondent Robert Booth, as detectives are waiting for Moore-Bick’s conclusions before deciding whether or not to recommend that the Crown Prosecution Service brings criminal charges.
There will be pressure on officers to act, said Peter Apps, the deputy editor of Inside Housing. “It is also no exaggeration to say that if the Metropolitan Police is to have any hope of a relationship of trust with the working class communities of London, it must show that it is willing and able to prosecute the people responsible for the deaths,” he wrote.
Although we are far from knowing whether anyone will face criminal charges in connection with the fire, “sprawling” legal actions have been “rumbling through the civil court system”, which could result in victims, survivors and the bereaved receiving compensation, said The Guardian.
Hundreds of grieving relatives and survivors of the fire have filed civil claims, which argue that 23 defendants, including combustible cladding maker Arconic and Grenfell landlord the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, “separately and cumulatively led to or contributed to the disaster”. Some police officers and firefighters are also making claims for the distress and lasting damage they experienced when responding to the incident.
Campaigners are hoping that recommendations from the final report will be taken up by the authorities. Forty-six recommendations from Phase 1 of the inquiry were published in October 2019, including for dangerous ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding to be banned and removed from buildings.
Just 21 of the recommendations have been incorporated into law so far, reported MyLondon.
Meanwhile, relatives of those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire and in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, along with those affected by Covid-19 and other crises, have teamed up to call on political parties to adopt a so-called “Hillsborough Law” into their manifestos before the next general election.
The law would ensure that all public officials have a statutory “duty of candour” and bereaved families can access publicly funded legal advocates. It would also require public bodies to sign a charter committing them to fair conduct, said the Mirror.
The Grenfell fire, the deadliest structural fire in the UK since the 1988 Piper Alpha oil-platform disaster and the worst UK residential fire since the Second World War, led to the deaths of 72 people. More than 70 people were injured, while 223 escaped the flames.
The inquiry wrapped up with a “shocking reminder of the human cost” of the disaster, said The Guardian. The majority of the tower’s “trapped, choking, panicking and desperate” residents died from the inhalation of fire fumes as “combustible cladding, made by companies that knew the dangers, blazed”.