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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Detectives outline criminal investigation ahead of Grenfell Tower anniversary

Ahead of the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, detectives have outlined the progress of the criminal investigation as they move towards the next stage of their enquiries.

Since the tragic events of June 2017, the Met has been investigating the fire to identify any criminal offences and if so, who is responsible. A team of 180 officers and staff remain dedicated to the investigation.

Since the fire detectives have:

  • Identified and are investigating 19 companies or organisations and 58 individuals, as suspects.
  • Entered an “early investigative advice” phase and submitted eight of 20 advice files to the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • Interviewed under caution over 50 suspects for a total of more than 300 hours.
  • Spent more than a year forensically examining Grenfell Tower, and painstakingly removing its exterior piece by piece.
  • Collated more than 27,000 exhibits, which are held in a 635m2 warehouse big enough to park 25 double decker buses inside. The exhibits include cladding, insulation, doors, windows and other parts of the building, down to screws, nuts and bolts.
  • Followed up more than 27,000 separate lines of enquiry.
  • Taken more than 12,000 witness statements.
  • Retrieved more than 152 million documents and files.
  • Evaluated 1,600 witness statements provided to the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, 300 days of evidence and over 320,000 documents disclosed by the inquiry.

Later this year, the public inquiry is expected to publish its Phase 2 report.

Police work is independent of the public inquiry, but detectives must fully consider the report’s findings in the context of the ongoing and highly complex criminal investigation.

Officers believe the investigation team will need at least 12-18 months to fully assess the inquiry’s report and complete evidential files to present to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions.

Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said: “At the heart of the police investigation are the bereaved and survivors, who have gone through so much. I can’t pretend to imagine the impact of such a long police investigation on them.

“Those who are most deeply affected have our commitment that we are doing all we can to get this investigation right. We owe that to those who died and all those affected by the tragedy. We are moving as quickly as we can, but we must be thorough and diligent in our investigation.

“This is one of the largest and most complex investigations ever undertaken by the Met, the scale and legal complexity is immense. We have been working since the night of the fire to leave no stone unturned in our investigation into what happened.

“Based on where we are today, we believe it will take us at least until the end of 2025 to fully assess the public inquiry’s phase 2 report and finalise evidential files to present to the CPS for charging decisions. We have updated the bereaved and survivors with our expected timescales and we know how long this sounds, on top of the very long time they have already waited.

“To provide some context, the inquiry’s phase 1 report was more than 800 pages long. We expect the phase 2 report will be substantially longer and much more complex. We must fully assess the findings of the report – line by line – against the evidence we have gathered in our investigation.

“It’s very possible we will then need to explore further evidence and witnesses, and interview some or all of the criminal suspects again.”

Crown Prosecution Service

So far, eight of 20 early investigative advice files have been submitted to the CPS with 12 other files in advanced stages of preparation. Each file examines a full range of offences including corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and health and safety offences.

To illustrate the scale and complexity of the investigation, the covering report alone for just one of those advice files is 535 pages long and references more than 1,200 supporting evidential documents. Printed out, that file, in relation to just one company and its employees, stands at almost 7ft high.

A team of specialist prosecutors from the CPS will then carefully and thoroughly consider all the evidence, with the hope of making charging decisions by the end of 2026.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: “The police anticipate sending complete files of evidence to us by 2026.

“There is great benefit in this case that we have been working closely with police throughout and will therefore be in a strong position to consider the final evidential files when they have been completed.

“However, as you will appreciate, due to the sheer volume of substantial evidence, there is still a lot of work to be done in reaching any charging decisions.

“It is our hope that by the end of 2026, we will be in a position where we are making decisions.

“As you will appreciate it is not possible to provide any timescales on our charging decisions, so we will not be able to give a definitive date on when everything will be completed but our team of specialist prosecutors will need time to review the final file carefully and thoroughly before making their decisions.”

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