UK

Grenfell Tower fire: No prosecutions for subletting of flats, government promises

Grenfell tower and missing posters
Image caption At least 80 people are thought to have been killed in the fire

No-one will be prosecuted for illegally subletting a Grenfell Tower flat, the government says, as work continues to identify all those killed in the fire.

It says its priority is supporting survivors and identifying loved ones and is urging people to help.

At least 80 people are thought to have died in the fire at the west London block and it's feared the full death toll won't be known for months.

Meanwhile cladding on 181 blocks in 51 areas has now failed fire safety tests.

Cladding from as many as 600 tower blocks across England is being tested as it is thought Grenfell Tower's recently-installed cladding may have helped the fire to spread.

All of the material checked so far in the wake of the tragedy on 14 June has failed the tests.

However, the Department for Communities and Local Government said it was testing the buildings it was most worried about first.

Earlier this week, police warned it would not know the final death toll until at least the end of the year and appealed for the public to come forward with any information about those who were inside at the time of the fire on 14 June.

The Metropolitan Police and Home Office have also both said they are not interested in the immigration status of anyone living in the building.

'Public interest'

Legal guidance telling prosecutors not to bring charges for subletting given the "public interest" in identifying the victims has been issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.

"It is a priority for investigators to establish who was in Grenfell Tower on that tragic day and it is crucial that we do everything possible to support them," she said.

The decision was made alongside the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC, who added: "Every piece of information will help the authorities accurately identify who was in the flats at the time of the fire.

"I hope this statement provides some much needed clarity to residents and the local community, and encourages anyone with information to come forward."

Announcing the move, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid added: "Supporting those affected by the tragic events at Grenfell Tower has been the absolute priority of the government - that includes making sure that loved ones still missing are identified.

"Therefore I would urge those with information to come forward without fear of prosecution."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Supporters of Grenfell survivors took part in anti-government protests in London on Saturday

The news follows an announcement by Kensington and Chelsea Council that it would suspend the rents of those forced to leave their homes after the fire.

Residents living in nearby buildings - the so-called finger blocks - have been without hot water since the neighbourhood's boiler was destroyed during the fire.

Now the council has confirmed their rent will be suspended until at least January 2018 and any rent deducted since 14 June will be refunded.

It comes after a victims' group said one resident had had rent deducted from their bank account since the fire.

'No energy'

The west London council has been heavily criticised for its response to the disaster, leading this week to the resignation of its leader, Nicholas Paget-Brown, and his deputy, Rock Feilding-Mellen.

Robert Atkinson, leader of the opposition on Kensington and Chelsea council, told the BBC: "I still have residents who are not housed.

"I still have residents have no hot water and I have got residents living in hotels which they are now sharing with Wimbledon spectators. That is not a satisfactory situation."

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Media captionConservative councillor Catherine Faulks apologises over victim rent blunder

Sid-Ali Atmani, who lived on the 15th floor with his family and is currently in a hotel, told the BBC: "Still we haven't any improvement regarding our situation. Our personal opinion is [that it is] a failure for people who are responsible for that."

A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: "We are focused on the needs of all affected residents, including those from Barandon Walk, Testerton Walk and Hurstway [the finger blocks].

"This group of residents have suffered a huge disruption to their lives as they were evacuated from their homes."

He added that the council expected to have the hot water supply restored in the next week.

He said some had gone back to their homes, but the council would continue to provide temporary accommodation for those who did not want to return.

'Systemic issues'

Meanwhile, Labour MP David Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye died in the fire, told Sky News that the retired judge leading the public inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, would have to maintain the confidence of survivors.

"The job is not just to be independent and judicious - I am sure he is eminently legally qualified, of course he is - it is also to be empathetic and walk with these people on this journey," he said.

Yvette Williams, from the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign group, told Sky News they would boycott the public inquiry into the tragedy if it did not have a wide remit and address "systemic issues".

Did you live in Grenfell Tower? Or are you part of the local community? What's your experience of the council's response to the fire? Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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