Detectives will not know who to interview under caution for the criminal investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire until the autumn, according to the Metropolitan Police.
During a hearing with the Greater London Assembly police and crime committee, Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Craig Mackey said that although around 200 officers will be working on the investigation, it could be autumn before anybody is interviewed under caution due to the complexity of the investigation.
“At this stage in an investigation I’d be very surprised if you were in a position to assimilate all of that data, understand it, understand the involvement of the individual, and then interview them under caution at this point,” said Mackey.
“I wouldn’t tie the investigation to a timescale, I think we’ll be much clearer on that come the autumn.”
Around 4TB of data, equivalent to 20M boxes of paper, has been collected so far from around 60 companies, while officers are also sifting through 15t of debris on each floor of the tower.
The criminal investigation will use “the full range of the criminal law, looking at what may or may not have happened on that night and in the building”.
So far 39 victims have been identified, although it is still thought 80 people have died out of 350 known to be in the building at the time of the fire. Due to the scale of the tragedy, detectives have had to turn to forensic experts who worked on the recovery operation for 9/11.
“Without wanting to be too graphic – but I hope it helps explain – from what we’ve seen and from what some of the experts are telling us, that the fire in some parts of that building burned at over 1000°C, for a considerable period of time,” said Mackey.
The news comes as Sajid Javid warned he could use his powers as communities secretary to force local authorities to submit samples for fire safety tests, saying it was ”simply unacceptable” that BRE has yet to see samples from seven towers, all of them managed by housing associations.
“Although legal responsibility for fire safety enforcement lies with local authorities, I do have the power to direct an authority to consider these test results as part of their duty to keep housing conditions under review,” he said.
“If necessary, I will not hesitate to use this power, which could lead to enforcement action being taken against a landlord if a fire risk is not dealt with. I do hope it will not come to that.”
Meanwhile Hammersmith and Fulham Council has announced a £20M boost for fire safety standards across the borough under a Fire Safety Plus programme. Following a review of its fire safety standards, sprinklers will be added to high rise buildings, concierge staff will be recruited and new fire doors and heat detectors will be installed in apartment blocks.
“The fire in Kensington has made one thing clear – just meeting minimum fire standards is not enough,” said Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan.
“The regulations are clearly not good enough so we will be going above and beyond what is required.”
Results from large-scale cladding tests will be made available next week. Samples of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding from 189 local authority-owned buildings have now failed limited combustibility requirements.
Several fire safety experts have spoken about their reservations over the BRE-led cladding tests. Local Authority Building Control director of policy Barry Turner told New Civil Engineer the cladding samples’ 100% failure rate ”has brought into question everything that surrounds the environment of testing construction methodologies”.