Council criticised for poor response to blaze that killed at least 80 could face fine
UK police to question senior officials for suspected corporate manslaughter over Grenfell Tower fire
Detectives have reasonable grounds to suspect that two organisations responsible for running the London tower block gutted by fire last month committed corporate manslaughter following the deaths of at least 80 people, police have told survivors.
Senior officials from the council that owns Grenfell Tower and its management organisation will be interviewed by police over the deaths in the fire that ripped through the 24-storey bloc, according to a letter sent to residents.
Police told the two bodies and residents about developments on Thursday after seizing a huge amount of material and taking a large number of witness statements.
The law cited by the police – the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 – relates only to companies and punishment is by way of fine.
Individuals cannot be prosecuted under this law, but other health and safety legislation allows for officials to be held personally responsible.
Attention has focused on the building’s recently installed exterior cladding which caught alight after firefighters thought they had contained the fire in a single flat.
Tests on the same materials used in hundreds of hospitals, residential blocks and other public buildings have all failed fire safety tests.
“In due course, a senior representative of each corporation will be formally interviewed by police in relation to the potential offence,” said police in a letter to residents. “This interview will not take place immediately, since it is important that all relevant facts and information have been gathered before any such interview is conducted.”
The leaders of the two organisations under investigation – Kensington and Chelsea Council which owns the building and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation – have both stepped down following the fire.
Nicholas Paget-Brown, the leader of the council, and his deputy Rock Feilding-Mellen both resigned following fierce criticism of the council’s response to the disaster. Robert Back, chief executive of the management organisation, stepped down to “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry.”
New council leader Elizabeth Campbell said the residents “deserve answers” and would the council fully support the police inquiry.