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28.07.17

Council could be tried for corporate manslaughter after Grenfell fire

There are “reasonable grounds” to suspect Kensington Borough Council is guilty of corporate manslaughter for its role in the death of at least 80 people after the Grenfell Tower fire, Scotland Yard has revealed.

In a letter to survivors and families of victims of the blaze, the police said that the authority and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) could be guilty of the serious charges.

“After an initial assessment of that information, the officer leading the investigation has today notified Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the KCTMO that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter, under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007,” the letter read.

The Act requires the prosecution to prove that a gross breach of duty of care occurred from the authority in charge of the property.

After news of the tragic fire broke, residents came forward to declare that since 2013, warnings had been sent to authorities that the building was not fit for purpose and was a potential hazard. Some of them had amassed letters and information about this in a blog.

If found guilty, the organisations would be forced to pay a fine, although prison is not on the cards even if they are prosecuted.

But Labour’s Tottenham MP David Lammy said that though he was pleased that justice for Grenfell victims was being taken seriously by the Metropolitan police, a fine would not be enough for those responsible.

“A fine would not represent justice for the Grenfell victims and their families,” he said. “Gross negligence manslaughter carries a punishment of prison time and I hope that the police and the CPS are considering charges of manslaughter caused by gross negligence.”

And a statement from Unite, the union who now represents about 30 families affected by the Grenfell fire, agreed that the news that police were considering action against the authorities was welcome.

“Clearly people have to be held accountable if their decisions have caused deaths and, more so, if those decisions were made with the knowledge of the very real risks to lives,” Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett, explained.

“We welcome the continued police investigation that they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect that both organisations may have committed an offence under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.” 

The news follows the leader of Wiltshire Council being appointed to the independent taskforce looking into the Grenfell fire disaster earlier this week.

Top Image: Victoria Jones PA Wire

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