09:57, August 07 221 0 theguardian.com

2017-08-07 09:57:03
Grenfell fire: criminal charges with long prison terms not ruled out

The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has not ruled out possible criminal charges carrying lengthy prison sentences against individuals over the Grenfell Tower fire.

In her first public comments since the disaster, she said investigations were at a very early stage. All options remained open, but it could take months before charging decisions could be made, she added.

About 80 people are believed to have died in the fire in west London.

Gross negligence manslaughter is among offences prosecutors could consider if police find sufficient evidence. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life in prison for those found to have high levels of culpability.

Saunders, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, said: “All of us want to see justice done … It is one of those tragedies where everybody will want to do as much as they possibly can in order to help both those who continue to be residents and those who died in the fire.

“We have been talking to police and assisting them with some early advice. We haven’t seen any evidence yet so it is far too early for us to say what offences we would be looking at. But there are a whole raft of offences against both individuals and possibly companies that we could be looking at depending what the evidence shows.

“If there is sufficient evidence then we will be prosecuting.”

The DPP’s comments follow the publication of a Scotland Yard letter which said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that corporate manslaughter offences had been committed by Kensington and Chelsea council, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the latter of which ran Grenfell tower.

As that is punishable with a fine, it prompted some, including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, north London, to express concerns that those responsible for the disaster could escape adequate penalties

Saunders said swift action was unlikely and that were there to be prosecutions, it was vital to build strong cases, rather than rushing the investigations.

She added that she understood people wanted answers but such situations were often very complicated .

Saunders described Grenfell as a “shocking, terrible tragedy”. she said: “You can’t help but watch what happened and feel absolutely devastated and compassion for everyone involved.” But, she added, prosecutors had to look a evidence dispassionately.

“All of us want to see justice done, but we need to make sure that we do it in accordance with the law. “