A CLADDING SUBCONTRACTOR, along with an architect and installer who worked on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower have asked for assurances their evidence won’t be used against them in any future prosecution.
The request was submitted on behalf of subcontractor Harley Façades, Studio E Architects, installers Osborne Berry, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation – as well as a number of other individuals.
The application asks that “No oral evidence a person may give before the Inquiry will be used in evidence against that person in any criminal proceedings or for the purpose of deciding whether to bring such proceedings save as provided in paragraph 2.”
Paragraph 2 forbids crimes of giving false evidence to the inquiry, conspiring to give false evidence, or other offences relating to evidence as part of the Inquiries Act 2005.
The Grenfell fire is still under investigation by the Metropolitan Police, with scope for prosecuting Gross Negligence Manslaughter where evidence is found.
If the request for immunity is not granted, the applicants argue that the witnesses involved may choose not to give evidence at all in case they incriminate themselves.
The application was criticised by the union Unite, which is supporting 65 core participants at the inquiry.
Assistant general secretary for legal affairs Howard Beckett said: “This is absolutely outrageous. The corporate manslaughter legislation in the UK is already weak enough, without giving companies, who could have been culpable in the deaths of 72 innocent people, immunity from prosecution.
“If the attorney general upholds this request it will be a mockery of justice.
“If the companies involved in installing the cladding knew it was flammable and unsafe and then allowed it to be installed anyway they should of course be prosecuted.
“This is a key test of whether the government wants a proper inquiry which reveals the truth or if they are simply involved in a whitewashing exercise.
“If immunity is granted then the victims of this terrible and entirely preventable tragedy will lose all confidence in the justice system.”
Phase two so far
There have been three days of opening statements, which have come from the applicants, as well as fire engineering consultants Exova UK, manufacturers Arconic and Celotex, machining company CEP Architectural Façades and main contractor Rydon Maintenance.
There were also statements from Kengsington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, consultants and surveyors Artelia Projects UK, and the local authority.
According to emails revealed by insulation company Celotex, the main contractor, cladding subcontractor, fire engineering consultants and architects were all aware that Grenfell Tower’s cladding would fail under ‘external flaming’.
Grenfell fire risk foreseen
Acting on behalf of insulation manufacturer Celotex, Craig Orr QC told the inquiry: “Whilst expressed in slightly different terms, each of Harley, Studio E, Exova and Rydon was openly acknowledging in these emails that the cladding would fail in the event of a fire with external flaming.
“That tragically is what happened on the night of 14 June 2017. This email exchange shows that the risk which eventuated on that night was expressly foreseen by the designers, contractors and fire safety consultants responsible for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment.”
The inquiry continues.