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999 crews sue over Grenfell trauma

29 June 2020

FIREFIGHTERS AND police officers who attended the fire in June 2017 are demanding compensation for ‘mental scars’ from the trauma ‘they suffered while tackling the devastating blaze’.

Advisen reported on the legal claims launched at the High Court by both firefighters and police officers ‘who faced the horrors of the Grenfell Tower disaster’, which saw them sue for ‘at least’ £1m in damages ‘over trauma they suffered’ responding to the fire. The first responders, including 97 firefighters and 29 Metropolitan Police officers and staff, are demanding compensation for the ‘long-lasting mental scars’ from the fire, as well as injuries suffered at the time.

The news outlet stated that this comes from fears that ‘they may now be at risk of respiratory disease and cancer’, and the legal action was launched against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), its tenant management organisation (TMO), ‘eight firms involved in the refurbishments’ of the tower and London Fire Brigade (LFB); while the police officers are also suing the office of the Metropolitan Police commissioner.

This adds to a case taken up by 88 victims of the fire including former residents and families of those who lost their lives, who are seeking damages from the council and the TMO. Firefighters Christopher Batcheldor, among those in the case, told the inquiry in 2018 ‘how he had to tell Zainab Deen that she and her son would be saved despite knowing crews could not reach them’, adding that ‘I basically lied to her and continued to tell her that we were coming for her’.

Firefighter Steve O’Donoghue rescued a young girl after enduring ‘scorching temperatures, smoke-filled stairwells, and tennis ball-sized pieces of debris’, and told the inquiry that ‘I can only describe the scene as Armageddon’. LFB control room worker Aisha Jabin took a call from victim Deborah Lamprell, and stated that ‘as I drove home I could hear Debbie’s voice in my head and I cried a lot. Thinking about that and hearing the baby in the background made it very, very tough and upsetting’.

Thompsons Solicitors’ Vincent Reynolds, representing the firefighters, commented: ‘Decisions were made at Grenfell which placed profits above safety and led to the tragic events of the night of 14 June 2017. The firefighters who attended on the night, and in the days after the fire, were placed in an extraordinary, extremely dangerous and harrowing situation.

‘It has affected their lives, and many continue to have nightmares about what they saw and had to do. They have suffered physical and psychological injuries, and we are concerned that some may later suffer from lung conditions or cancers, which won’t necessarily develop for a number of years.’

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh added that members were making personal injury claims ‘with the support of Scotland Yard’, stating: ‘The Grenfell Tower fire was a horrific incident for every person involved, and led to 72 people tragically losing their lives. Many of our members attended the scene on the night of the fire, and subsequently as the investigation progressed some of the members were understandably affected by what they saw that night.’

RBKC responded that ‘full details of these claims are yet to be served, so it would be wrong to comment further at this stage’, while the TMO said it would respond within the court process once served with the papers. An LFB spokesperson said meanwhile: ‘This is an on-going legal process and for that reason we are unable to comment further at this stage.’

Finally, Scotland Yard said: ‘We are aware of the claims lodged in the High Court against the Commissioner in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire. It would be inappropriate to discuss further at this early stage.’

Of the companies involved in the refurbishment, Exova, Celotex and Arconic ‘declined to comment’, while Rydon, Studio E, Harley, CS Stokes and CEP Architectural Facades were all contacted for comment.

999 crews sue over Grenfell trauma