The scale of the criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire has been laid bare, with almost 400 firms involved in constructing or refurbishing the building, and the full picture of how and why the fire spread not set to emerge until autumn 2018.
Speaking at the first of two procedural hearings for the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry on Monday, Jeremy Johnson QC confirmed on behalf of the Metropolitan Police that some 383 companies had now been identified in connection to the construction or refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.
Labour MP David Lammy, who lost a family friend in the fire, tweeted that the update on potential charges was “very welcome”, adding: “Justice must be done.”
Experts are conducting detailed reconstructions and forensic analysis to determine what happened and how the fire was able to spread through the building.
“The full and accurate picture of how the fire spread and took hold can only be obtained from that forensic evidence once it’s in complete form,” said Johnson.
He added: ”The Metropolitan Police does not expect it to be complete until the autumn of next year. Interviews of further witnesses or of suspects in the light of that examination are therefore not likely to take place before autumn 2018.
“Of course the police wish this could be done more quickly. But there is a robust logic to that timetable, and all I can say is that my client is committed to keeping the families and survivors updated as to the progress of the investigation in regular briefings.”
More than 31M documents are being used in the criminal investigation and an overwhelming 3,916 lines of inquiry are being followed.
“Outside certain counter terrorism enquiries, the investigation is unprecedented in terms of its scale and complexity,” said Johnson.
Separately to the criminal investigation, the public inquiry has its own experts investigating causes of the fire. At the hearing more details were given on what expert witnesses – including a leading Arup engineer – will cover.
Phase 1 of the inquiry will set out what happened on the night of the fire, while Phase 2 will explore why and how the fire was able to spread through the building.
During Phase 1 of the inquiry, Arup fire safety engineer leader Dr Barbara Lane will explore active and passive fire protection measures and how they failed to control the fire and smoke and contributed to the spread of fire.
In Phase 2, Lane will assess the design and construction of the building. She will investigate whether fire regulations were complied with and what fire safety measures were adopted.
There will be a second procedural hearing at the end of January 2018, when a more complete timeline for the inquiry will be set out. So far 231,000 documents have been submitted to the inquiry, which includes evidence from designers, contractors, suppliers and manufacturers.
The inquiries are ongoing and have as yet reached no conclusions or apportioned any blame. A Phase 1 report is expected to be published in autumn next year.