Grenfell victims likely to wait more than a decade for justice as Met Police says it only has 'one chance' at investigation

22 May 2024, 13:41 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 16:16

Victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are set to wait more than a decade for justice, with criminal charges over the blaze not expected for another two years.

The Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday it will likely take until the end of 2025 before the investigation into the fire is finalised.

Decisions on potential criminal charges are then not expected until the end of 2026.

Met Police deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy explained the force has a "responsibility to consider" the results of the second public inquiry into the blaze, which is expected later this year.

"If we were to rush our police investigation, there is every chance that justice would not occur at the end of it," he said.

He conceded however that this means it would be nearly 10 years before anyone could appear in court over the Grenfell Tower fire - as it will take at least 12 to 18 months after the report is published before the police are able to finish its "charging file".

The fire, the deadliest in a UK residential building since the Second World War, killed 72 people in 2017.

It was started by an electrical fault on the fourth floor, which then spread rapidly throughout the building due to combustible cladding and external insulation.

Survivors say wait 'unbearable'

Grenfell United, which represents many of the bereaved families and survivors, say the long wait for accountability is "unbearable."

"Ten years until we see justice," a spokesperson for the group said. "Ten years until we see prosecutions.

"Ten years until those responsible for the murders of 72 people are held to account for their crimes. This should be shocking for everyone, but for us, we live our lives on hold while those responsible walk free."

At Wednesday's press briefing, Mr Cundy said he appreciates that many of those affected by Grenfell "lost everything," adding he "can't imagine what it's like for them".

Read more: Grenfell six years on - 'Frustration is turning to anger'

The police investigation into the fire has already generated 27,000 lines of inquiry and more than 12,000 witness statements.

It has been described as one of the largest and most complex investigations ever dealt with by the Met Police.

A total of 19 companies and organisations are under investigation for potential criminal offences, and 58 individuals, and more than 300 hours of interviews have taken place.

£107.3m spent on Met inquiry

Potential offences under consideration include corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office, health and safety offences, fraud, and offences under the fire safety and building regulations.

So far, eight out of 20 files have been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for early investigative advice that would be passed back to police, with a typical case file more than 500 pages long with 17,000 pages of evidence.

Up to the end of March this year, the Met has spent £107.3m on the inquiry, and there are 180 investigators currently working on the case.

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Officers have also retrieved more than 152 million files on the tower and have gathered 75,000 photos and 27,000 exhibits.

Forensic teams have spent 415 days examining the tower itself after the fire, painstakingly gathering evidence.

Exhibits, including the charred remains of cladding panels which would have been dripping with molten plastic during the fire, are being stored in a warehouse large enough to hold 25 double-decker buses.