Charges Considered in Grenfell Tower Fire
The Metropolitan Police Service announced late last week that a criminal investigation has been opened regarding the fatal fire at London’s Grenfell Tower.
Police say they are considering manslaughter charges after revealing that the building’s insulation and cladding tile failed safety tests.
“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the tests started,” said Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack, who is overseeing the investigation. “The initial test on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.
“We will identify and investigate any criminal offense and, of course, given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter, as well as criminal offenses and breaches of legislation and regulations,” she said.
Officials have begun testing high-rise blocks around England in the wake of the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire that has killed at least 79 people. The fire—which officials say was caused unintentionally by a Hotpoint FF175BP fridge-freezer—spread rapidly up the building envelope of the tower.
Composite aluminum panels with a polyethylene core (Reynobond PE) are being blamed for the fire's quick spread throughout the entirety of the building, and there has been some disagreement among government officials and building experts on whether that choice was code-compliant.
While the legality of the cladding is being investigated, about 600 high-rises across the United Kingdom that could be clad with flammable systems are being issued combustibility checks.
While the government is funding up to 100 tower tests a day, only 75 test results have been revealed. All 75 of those high-rises tested have failed their combustibility checks.
That result has prompted skepticism among some, including shadow housing minister John Healey, who questioned the thoroughness of the testing.
“What worries me now about these checks is that 60 have failed out of 60,” he said over the weekend. “That surprises me, that suggests they are just testing one product. And there have really got to be much wider safety checks and tests for the future.”
“The advice that we have given to local authorities and to housing associations, is people shouldn’t wait for the checks to come back from these cladding results, they should act now, get the fire service in, check the buildings that they think may be affected and put in place mitigation measures if required, or as in the case of Camden, if they need to evacuate, that needs to happen.”
In the London district of Camden, a set of five towers that housed about 4,000 people were evacuated after the complex was deemed unsafe due to combustible cladding and a slew of other fire safety issues.
The Local Government Association said in a statement that it was the combination of the two that incited that evacuation, not just the findings about the cladding.
In addition to the combustible testing and the criminal investigation, Prime Minister Theresa May said that an independent public inquiry is also taking place and that “No stone will be left unturned.”