The Grenfell Tower public inquiry should lead to criminal prosecutions of organisations involved in the disaster, lawyers for the bereaved said.
They accused a “rogues gallery” of firms of being “grossly negligent”, “fraudulent” and “reckless”.
Greed was a key motivator and private sector organisations involved in the refurbishment had shown “a callous indifference to anything – morality, honesty, life safety – that was not related to the bottom line of the business”, said Imran Khan KC.
Grenfell was “a human rights disaster, a systematic failure of state and private actors to protect the life, security and dignity of people” and that institutional racism “infected every aspect of the disaster”. Of the people who died in the fire, 85% were from ethnic minorities.
Arconic, the US-owned firm that made the highly combustible cladding panels, was first among those named by Stephanie Barwise KC, representing one group of survivors, in a “rogues gallery” as responsible for the speed of the fire’s growth and spread, followed by the architect Studio E, and fire engineer Exova.
Celotex, which made most of the combustible insulation used on the tower, and Kingspan, another manufacturer, “were fraudulent in their sales tactics and in their dealings with those who were charged with testing and certifying the products”, said Adrian Williamson KC.
Studio E, Harley, the facade contractor, and Exova were “grossly negligent”, Michael Mansfield KC said.
Among those responsible for exacerbating the fire’s impact were the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its tenant management organisation. RBKC’s housing director rejected an annual inspection programme of door closers on grounds of cost despite the fire brigade requiring it. Several closers were missing on the night of the fire, assisting the spread of fire and deadly smoke.
“This conscious cost-benefit analysis with human life as the cost was not a legitimate way for a local authority to behave,” said Stephanie Barwise KC, representing one group of survivors.
While pleased the inquiry has uncovered truths about what caused the fire, many survivors are impatient that it has delayed criminal justice as the Metropolitan police have said criminal charges can only be considered after the inquiry report is published, expected later in 2023.