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26 Jan 2020

Robert Booth, The Guardian (UK)

Grenfell inquiry to restart with statements from private firms

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The companies which wrapped Grenfell Tower in combustible cladding will finally face public scrutiny when the inquiry into the loss of 72 lives restarts this week.

About 200,000 unseen documents, from private emails to phone transcripts and commercial agreements, will be released during 18 months of hearings examining decisions taken in the months and years before the fire, its immediate aftermath and the role of the UK government...

A conflict of interest row, which forced the resignation of an inquiry panellist over links to the firm that made the combustible cladding, has strained community trust...

The inquiry has so far cost more than £40m in public money, but the legal bills in the second phase are expected to be higher. The inquiry is not set up to establish liability, rather to examine and make recommendations to government. But companies and the insurance firms funding their legal teams are unlikely to make easy concessions given the looming threat of other actions...

Arconic and Celotex are facing civil litigation from the bereaved in US courts which lawyers said could result in a payout worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the UK, the Metropolitan police are investigating possible manslaughter and corporate manslaughter charges, and have already conducted at least 13 interviews under caution. Detectives will wait until the conclusion of the public inquiry before deciding whether to send evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges. There is also the potential for civil litigation in the UK.