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29 Jan 2020

Donato Paolo Mancini and Kate Beioley, Financial Times

Corporate witnesses in Grenfell Tower inquiry seek immunity

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Key corporate witnesses at the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster have asked for immunity from prosecution for themselves and their employers over any evidence they give, a move condemned as “highly reprehensible” by victims’ lawyers...

“We collectively write to request that you seek an undertaking from the attorney-general preventing the use of evidence given by witnesses to the public inquiry against them in any future criminal proceedings,” the lawyers said in the letter, which was submitted on Monday...

Privilege against self incrimination is invoked in situations where a witness could incriminate themselves by speaking out. Witnesses have sought such privilege in big public inquiries.

A Metropolitan Police criminal investigation is running in parallel to the public inquiry. Lawyers for the key corporate witnesses have said it is “very broad” in scope and concerned with numerous potential offences.

But a senior lawyer with knowledge of the inquiry said it was “very surprising” that the request has been made so late...

The aftermath of the Grenfell disaster has sparked intense soul searching both in government and business, with parties scrambling to update fire safety guidance and adapting to the new guidelines...