• Friday, June 21, 2024

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No charges yet in 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people

The fire, Britain’s deadliest in a residential building since World War Two, sparked national debate on building standards and the treatment of low-income communities.

An electrical fault in a refrigerator started the fire, which spread rapidly through the 23-storey social housing block on June 14, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

By: Vivek Mishra

Criminal charges related to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed 72 people, remain years away. British police and prosecutors stated on Wednesday that 58 individuals and 19 firms and organisations are under investigation.

The fire, Britain’s deadliest in a residential building since World War Two, sparked national reflection on building standards and the treatment of low-income communities.

An electrical fault in a refrigerator started the fire, which spread rapidly through the 23-storey social housing block on June 14, 2017. A major police investigation began soon after, but detectives indicated that no charges would be filed until the conclusion of a public inquiry.

The final report of the inquiry is expected this year. However, due to the complexity of the case and the need to review the findings, charges or trials are unlikely before the disaster’s tenth anniversary, police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

“It would be our hope that by the end of 2026 we will be in a position where we are making final charging decisions,” said Rosemary Ainslie, the CPS head of special crime.

Police reported that 180 investigators are still working on the case, having interviewed more than 50 suspects for over 300 hours and gathered 152 million files and documents.

Potential charges include corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud, health and safety offences, and misconduct in a public office.

“We as the police have one chance to get this investigation done to the right standard … We owe that to those who lost their lives,” said Stuart Cundy, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of London’s police. The investigation has already cost more than 107 million pounds ($136 million).

A combustible cladding system retro-fitted to the tower’s exterior accelerated the fire’s spread, while many residents died in their apartments after following official guidance to stay put and await rescue.

In 2019, the first phase of the inquiry found that serious failings by the fire brigade had cost lives. The second phase addressed design and maintenance issues and safety regulations, with the final report now nearing completion.

(Reuters)

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