The official findings about what caused the Grenfell Tower disaster have been delayed again and may not be released until the middle of next year – seven years after the council block fire that killed 72 people.
It was initially hoped that the report would be published this autumn, then it was pushed to early next year. But now it may not be until summer. It means potential criminal prosecutions for manslaughter, fraud and health and safety offences will also be delayed, with any trials unlikely to start until late 2025 or even 2026.
The Grenfell Tower public inquiry said on Friday that the process of writing to all of those likely to be criticised in its final report “is proving time-consuming”.
That is in part because it generates responses which must be analysed to consider if the inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, needs to change his conclusions or the way he expressed them.
The inquiry took evidence over four and a half years, and its final hearings were in November 2022.
The Metropolitan police have said they will await publication of the full inquiry report before presenting evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider if charges will be brought. Potential crimes include corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and health and safety offences.
The first phase of the inquiry, detailing what happened on the night of the fire, published its report in 2020. The second phase explores how the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea ordered the installation of plastic-filled cladding panels that burned like petrol, the role of the construction industry, regulators and the government,
While chapters on the history of the disastrous refurbishment with combustible cladding panels, the response of central and local government and the preparedness of the London Fire Brigade are complete and warning letters have been sent to those criticised, chapters on the roles of the product manufacturers, the bodies which certified the combustible materials as safe and the conduct of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation, which operated the tower for the west London borough, are among those yet to be finished.
“As things stand, the report will not be published before April next year but the [inquiry] panel hopes to be able to send it to the prime minister before the next anniversary of the fire with publication soon thereafter,” the inquiry said in an update on Friday.
The report is likely to run to thousands of pages and the inquiry said the amount of oral and documentary evidence it has has collected “makes the drafting of a report a very time-consuming task”. Nearly 300,000 separate documents have been disclosed.
Many of the chapters relating to the development of fire safety aspects of the building regulations and the part played by government have been completed and others are well advanced but some drafting remains to be done. Work on the chapters relating to experimental work conducted by some of the inquiry’s expert witnesses is not quite as far advanced.