The Met has told the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire that it is investigating misconduct in public office charges as well as breaches of fire safety regulations, manslaughter and corporate manslaughter.
Outlining just how big the investigation into the June 14 fire is, the lawyer for the Metropolitan Police, Jeremy Johnson QC, told a two-day procedural hearing that began in London on Monday that it had already gathered 31 million documents and 2,500 physical exhibits.
Johnson added that nearly 4,000 separate lines of inquiry had been generated by the witness statements and documents examined so far and that a total of 187 officers and and civilian staff were working on the police investigation.
The scale of the probe was unprecedented outside of a counter-terrorist operation, Johnson said.
Pete Weatherby QC, who is representing many of the victims’ families told the hearing that “justice can not be delivered by courier” and called for the victims’ families to be involved.
He also called for the inquiry to order that a full disclosure be made on what evidence is to be heard as soon as possible and for a detailed “road map” on how proceedings would progress be formalised, given the “disappointment” felt about the speed of progress.
The “core participants”, Weatherby said, should see “evertything that the inquiry sees”, with few exceptions.
As the hearing got underway at Holborn Bars, Jeremy Corbyn hit out at revelations that more than 100 households that escaped the fire face spending Christmas in hotels and demanded the Prime Minister take urgent action.
Only 42 families from the tower have moved in to permanent new homes since the fire on June 14, a pace described by the Labour leader as a “disgrace”.
This week will see survivors and bereaved families mark the six-month anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 71 lives. Just days earlier residents held a protest outside the year’s final council meeting.
Corbyn said in a statement: “Six months on from the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Government is failing to learn its lessons and, more importantly, failing the survivors.
“It is a disgrace that the majority of Grenfell residents have still not been given homes and that tower blocks across our country have still not been made safe. We need answers from the Government and we need action.”
Meanwhile, the leader of the local council has said an “army” of staff are working around the clock to find properties for survivors.
Elizabeth Campbell, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said 300 homes will have been bought by Christmas to ensure that when families were ready to move on “we will be ready for them”.
“It’s been much more challenging than we thought it would be – for them and us”@RBKC Council Leader says she “accepts” that Grenfell Tower residents can’t rebuild their lives until they have homes. pic.twitter.com/iuD8mXQjEl — Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) December 11, 2017
Judy Bolton of @officialJ4G says children and disabled people from Grenfell Tower are still living in hotels almost six months after blaze pic.twitter.com/eeUwYC3tzE — Jasmin Gray (@JasminGray2) December 6, 2017
Campbell acknowledged there was a “lack of trust” in the council among survivors and it was “perfectly understandable” that some had refused initial offers of accommodation because they thought it would push them down the list of people trying to find a permanent home.
She defended the council’s actions in responding to the tragedy: “We have taken on about 300 extra people – housing officers and lawyers and key workers and we have got wraparound care.
“We have got an army of people out there working 24 hours a day, seven days a week because we actually really do care, we do want to get people rehoused. We have been buying homes in this part of London at a rate of about two a day.”
“The people which work here are very kind & helpful. In this Curve Centre there are many free courses & activities to develop people’s skills in different ways.” That’s feedback on children’s centre volunteer training course, offered @ The Curve. More info https://t.co/q251IQJvO6 pic.twitter.com/845DjYAWKT — Grenfell Support (@GrenfellSupport) December 5, 2017
She told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “We will have 300 homes very shortly so everyone will have a choice, and then I guess it’s about relationships.
“It’s about individual-by-individual, family-by-family, figuring out what they want and trying to get them into a position where they feel ready to accept and ready to move on. And when they are ready to move on, we are ready for them.”
She said that “every family” in a hotel had been offered “alternative accommodation” but many had refused “for perfectly understandable reasons”.
Some felt that “if we take up an offer, we’re out of a hotel, we will go down the list of priorities, we will be forgotten about – that’s the lack of trust”.
The Tories’ heartless survey proves how out of touch they are. Let’s tell them how we really feel about the tragedy at Grenfell. Sign this and tell Theresa May you’re with us ↓https://t.co/mO8MhSZiGk pic.twitter.com/TlX3cj0nzv
November 17, 2017
Over the weekend the inquiry, led by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, was thrust back into the spotlight as Labour backed an overhaul of its format and Britain’s official human rights watchdog expressed misgivings.
Labour highlighted a petition launched by bereaved families and survivors in recent weeks, calling on Theresa May to install an expert panel from a diverse range of backgrounds to sit alongside inquiry head Sir Martin, who has been accused of being out of touch.
On Monday the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced its own investigation into the blaze, examining whether authorities failed in their legal obligations to residents.
“The Grenfell fire has become a symbol of the inequality that exists in our country.” #FollowingGrenfell will look into the potential human rights and equality breaches. https://t.co/m3m6G9H6Ik pic.twitter.com/HL5z3EkYyw
December 11, 2017
Its decision to carry out an independent review will be interpreted by some as a vote of no confidence in certain aspects of Sir Martin’s work.
Despite the watchdog’s eagerness to play down a rift, one arm of the project will look at whether the Government adequately investigated the fire, including through the public inquiry.
The Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service will then be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday, attended by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.