Grenfell fire: 'No guarantee' of criminal charges, say police

Grenfell Tower, covered in scaffold after the 2017 fire Image copyright Getty Images

There is "no guarantee" that criminal charges will be brought over the Grenfell Tower fire, a senior police officer has said.

Cdr Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police gave the bereaved and survivors "an absolute personal commitment" the investigation would be "fearless".

But no decision on charges will be made until the public inquiry is complete, which could be in 2022.

The 2017 disaster in west London killed 72 people, including 18 children.

With 45 million documents for police to sift through, the investigation is one of the largest and most complex in the history of the Metropolitan Police, Cdr Cundy said.

He said: "Even now coming up to the two-year anniversary there is no guarantee that we can give that there will be criminal charges."

Instead, he offered the bereaved and survivors "our absolute personal commitment to do what we can to make sure this investigation is fearless, secures all the evidence that it can and puts that evidence before the Crown Prosecution Service".

Police have been told to wait until a public inquiry into the fire has published its final report before they pass evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider any criminal charges.

Cdr Cundy said the delay was "really, really tough for the families and the survivors".

Potential suspects

But he assured them that no one would be able to flee liability for the disaster by leaving the companies under investigation.

"The fact that someone leaves an organisation does not mean that their liability finishes because they leave," he said.

The investigation, called Operation Northleigh, is examining the construction, refurbishment and management of the tower, which caught fire on 14 June 2017, as well as the emergency response.

A team of 180 police officers and other staff are working on the operation, which is looking at potential offences of gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences.

Keyword searches are being used to sift through the millions of documents and 13 "potential suspects" have been interviewed under caution so far.

Det Supt Matt Bonner, who is leading the inquiry, said his team will never read all the documents but said they will consider all relevant material.

About 200 companies that were involved with the tower are considered relevant to the investigation and the investigation has logged 14,000 exhibits - including construction materials, photos, CCTV footage and personal items from flats in the tower.

But no search warrants have been applied for and no one has been formally arrested because police said they have received the assistance they need so far, and people have chosen to co-operate by being interviewed.

"The night that unfolded on the 14th will forever be in so many of our minds and so many of our hearts," said Cdr Cundy.

"Two years on our criminal investigation remains an absolute priority for the Met Police."

More on this story