Scotland Yard has admitted that no charges were likely to be made ‘for at least two years’ and after the inquiry has concluded, with survivors and the bereaved expressing ‘extreme frustration’.
Grenfell prosecutions unlikely until 2021
8 March 2019
The Guardian reported on the statement from Scotland Yard, in which it admitted that ‘no charges were likely’ in relation to the fire ‘for at least two years’, because detectives investigating the ‘possibility of manslaughter and corporate manslaughter offences’ stated that their investigation ‘must take into account’ the inquiry into the fire first, and the second phase of that is not due to start until the end of 2019.
Scotland Yard’s statement said that it was unlikely to submit a file to prosecutors before ‘the latter part of 2021’, which means trials may not start until 2022, ‘about five years after the fire’. The news outlet said that it understood police had only interviewed 11 people under criminal caution so far, for offences ‘ranging from’ manslaughter to health and safety breaches. Some of these had been interviewed as representatives of their organisation, and others as individuals, with no arrests yet.
It had been hoped that the inquiry and police investigation could be run separately, but Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner, leading the investigation, conceded that the new timetable was ‘longer than anticipated’, but ‘essential’ that all ‘available evidence’ was considered before any files were sent to prosecutors.
He added: ‘While the Grenfell Tower inquiry and the police investigation are independent of each other, our timelines are inextricably linked,” said Det Supt Matt Bonner, who leads the police investigation. For our investigation to be considered thorough and complete, it must consider all relevant information and it would be wrong not to take into account evidence given to the public inquiry and its final report and findings.’
Survivors and bereaved group Grenfell United responded that the decision was ‘extremely frustrating and disheartening’, and that ‘vague reassurances are wearing thin’, with families needing ‘clear commitments to keep faith in the process’. In turn, it warned Prime Minister Theresa May might risk being remembered as the ‘prime minister that failed us’.
Group chair Natasha Elcock commented: ‘The week after a fire that killed our loved ones and neighbours, Theresa May promised us justice. Justice for us means accountability and change. And we see little real change. We are living in a limbo with no individuals or organisations being held accountable and it is so painful for all of us who lost loved ones and our homes that night. We wait month after month, our lives on hold, for some kind of justice and progress.
‘We know the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower turned our homes into a death trap and we know that people, organisations and institutions that were meant to care for us didn’t and 72 people died. And yet no one has been held accountable. On this timeline, Theresa May risks leaving office without a single trial starting. As bereaved families and survivors, we urgently need reassurances from government that justice and change will come.
‘It is now 21 months since the fire, thousands of people are still living in homes with dangerous cladding, people in social housing are still being mistreated by landlords and Grenfell families still wait for any kind of justice.’