No Grenfell Tower fire charges until end of 2026, police say

It will be 10 years after the Grenfell Tower fire before potential criminal prosecutions can begin.

The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service said no charges would be announced until late 2026 at the earliest because of the increasing “scale and complexity” of the inquiry.

Nineteen companies or organisations are currently under investigation, along with 58 individuals, over the disaster which killed 72 people in June 2017.

Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivor group, said they need to see justice and the wait is “unbearable”.

Senior officers have confirmed they are continuing to gather evidence of potential corporate manslaughter or fraud.

The police investigation, codenamed Operation Northleigh, has been under way for nearly seven years alongside the two-part public inquiry.

The delay announced today means it is likely no defendants will appear in court until 2027, if there are prosecutions.

The public inquiry into the fire is expected to publish its final report in the summer or autumn of this year.

Police will then spend 12 to 18 months considering its contents, a legal requirement, senior officers said.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the Metropolitan Police had promised victims of the fire it would “follow the evidence wherever it would take us.”

He said police have “one chance” to get the investigation done to the right standard, and that “we owe that to those whilst their lives or who have been affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

Mr Cundy accepted the timeline was “incredible”. “That isn’t justice denied, but it’s a long time to get to that point.”

“A worse case scenario would be if we rushed the investigation,” he said, because it might expose flaws in the cases the police will pass to prosecutors.

Grenfell United, the group for bereaved families and survivors, said people’s lives are “on hold while those responsible walk free”.

“Ten years until we see justice […] 10 years until those responsible for the murders of 72 people are held to account for their crimes,” the group said in a statement.

The investigation has become increasingly complex as the Metropolitan Police considers the web of organisations and companies involved in the disastrous refurbishment of Grenfell Tower before the fire.

This added a layer of highly flammable cladding, which led to a small fire in a flat spreading fast.

Police are examining the role of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and its tenant management organisation, companies involved in doing the work, and others which supplied and manufactured building materials.

They have also gathered 27,000 pieces of evidence from the tower itself.

Allowing reporters into a secret warehouse for the first time, they demonstrated how the plastic filling of a cladding panel had melted and dripped, one of the key reasons the fire had spread.

The exhibits also include the burnt remains of the fridge, in which an electric fault sparked the fire, and racks of insulation.

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