Grenfell Tower fire: what caused it and who was responsible?
The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has begun, after recommendations by inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick as to what needed to be addressed were fully accepted by the Prime Minister.
In a letter to Theresa May, Moore-Bick set out the suggested terms of reference for the inquiry into the tragedy, which killed more than 80 people, which are to examine the circumstances surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower, including:
- the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;
- the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;
- the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;
- whether such regulations, legislation and guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;
- the arrangements made by the local authority or other responsible bodies for receiving and acting upon information either obtained from local residents or available from other sources (including information derived from fires in other buildings) relating to the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower, and the action taken in response to such information;
- the fire prevention and fire safety measures in place at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017;
- the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire; and
- the response of central and local government in the days immediately following the fire.
In her response to the recommendations, the Prime Minister said:
“The terms of reference you set out in your letter address the crucial issues of the cause and spread of the fire; the design, construction and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower; the scope and adequacy of the relevant regulations, legislation and guidance; the actions of the local authority and other bodies before the tragedy; the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire; and response of centre and local government in the aftermath. I am therefore happy to accept your recommendations for the Inquiry’s terms of reference without any amendment, and to announce an immediate start date.”
Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, which submitted a response to the consultation and contributed to one of the open meetings, said:
“It’s vital that this inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire becomes a watershed for fire safety and helps prevent future such tragedies.
“Agreeing these terms of reference will help ensure key areas of weakness are examined and enable the chair to make the necessary recommendations to improve both current and future fire risk management.”
Sir Martin intends to hold a preliminary hearing in mid-September and to provide an initial report by Easter 2018, dealing with the cause of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole building.
In its investigation of the fire, the Metropolitan Police Service reported last month that it had ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect multiple corporate manslaughter offences. This is a significant case, as it is one of only a handful that have been considered a potential corporate manslaughter, as opposed to simply health and safety, offence, since the passing of the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007. The MPS said:
“We have seized a huge amount of material and taken a large number of witness statements. After an initial assessment of that information, the officer leading the investigation has notified Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.”
Under this Act, an organisation can be found guilty of a corporate manslaughter offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised:
- causes a person’s death; and
- amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.