Grenfell contractors and those involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower are facing possible charges of fraud and conspiracy to defraud, new reports have suggested.
Inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick has told Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, that during upcoming hearings, witnesses are “very likely” to be asked to discuss issues involving potential fraud offences.
The inquiry has already heard witnesses could face criminal prosecution, and in some cases could be charged with manslaughter or corporate manslaughter.
But the inquiry confirmed Sir Martin has written to Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC requesting an undertaking that will stop any evidence given in person during the inquiry hearings (by those involved in the Tower’s refurbishment) being used against them in criminal proceedings.
The application is strongly opposed by legal teams representing the bereaved and survivors and has been branded a “mockery of justice”.
“Any questions put to employees of the manufacturers or sellers of the cladding materials about how they came to market potentially dangerous products are likely to lead to their invoking the privilege against self-incrimination,” Moore-Bick suggested.
As reported by 24housing, the inquiry had already heard evidence that Arconic, the company that made the cladding panels, knew in 2015 that the material used on Grenfell was “dangerous on facades”.
It also heard how in 2013, Celotex, which made the combustible insulation, was considering whether “our product realistically shouldn’t be used behind most cladding panels because in the event of a fire it would burn”.
Lawyers for the bereaved, survivors, and residents have branded the immunity application a “sabotage” of process.
While all are angry at the application, some of the bereaved and survivors have said they would prefer to see justice though the criminal courts than the public inquiry and so would prefer the police investigation to come first.
Moore-Bick told Cox he did not believe the undertaking would impede any criminal prosecution, however.
“Given the vast volume of documentary evidence and witness statements already available to the police, any admissions or inconsistent statements, although a potential bonus, are unlikely to provide the foundation for a decision to prosecute,” he said.
He also urged Cox to make a decision “as a matter of urgency”, saying the evidence the inquiry team had uncovered “suggests that significant risks to public health and safety will continue to be created until the full extent of what happened at Grenfell Tower is brought to light”.
The inquiry has confirmed hearings will not resume until at least 24th February.