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8 Nov 2022

Robert Booth, The Guardian

UK: ‘Rogues gallery’ of firms should be prosecuted, lawyers for bereaved say in closing statements to Grenfell Tower public inquiry

"‘Rogues gallery’ of Grenfell firms should be prosecuted, lawyers say", 7 Nov 2022

The Grenfell Tower public inquiry should lead to criminal prosecutions of organisations involved in the disaster, lawyers for the bereaved said as they accused a “rogues gallery” of firms of responsibility for 72 deaths.

In closing statements after more than four years of hearings, they said key players were “grossly negligent”, “fraudulent” and “reckless” and urged the inquiry panel chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to deliver unstinting criticism of governmental bodies overseeing building safety.

They also challenged the corporations to issue an unambiguous apology when they address the inquiry for the last time this week. Failure to do so would mean “injustice heaped upon injustice”...

While pleased the inquiry has uncovered truths about what caused the fire, many survivors are impatient that it has delayed criminal justice as the Metropolitan police have said criminal charges can only be considered after the inquiry report is published, expected later in 2023.

Arconic, the US-owned firm that made the highly combustible cladding panels, was first among those named by Stephanie Barwise KC, representing one group of survivors, in a “rogues gallery” as responsible for the speed of the fire’s growth and spread, followed by the architect Studio E, and fire engineer Exova...

Celotex, which made most of the combustible insulation used on the tower, and Kingspan, another manufacturer, “were fraudulent in their sales tactics and in their dealings with those who were charged with testing and certifying the products”, said Adrian Williamson KC...

The companies will give their closing statements later this week but each has previously denied serious wrongdoing and argued their actions were in line with regulations at the time.

The lawyers [...] argued Grenfell was “a human rights disaster, a systematic failure of state and private actors to protect the life, security and dignity of people” and that institutional racism “infected every aspect of the disaster”. Of the people who died in the fire, 85% were from ethnic minorities...