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British police consider corporate manslaughter in Grenfell Tower tragedy

Met police said there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect the council and tenant management organisation may have committed corporate manslaughter

28 July 2017, 8:21am
The law on corporate manslaughter would require any prosecution to prove that there was a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed to those who died
The law on corporate manslaughter would require any prosecution to prove that there was a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed to those who died
The Scotland Yard investigation into the Grenfell fire disaster has said there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect the council and the organisation that managed the tower block of corporate manslaughter.

In a letter to residents, the force said that senior figures from Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation faced being interviewed by police. According to the police, the decision to identify two organisations as suspects, follows the seizing of documents and taking of a large number of witness statements.

In their letter, police said: “After an initial assessment of that information, the officer leading the investigation has today notified Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter, under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.”

The law on corporate manslaughter would require any prosecution to prove that there was a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed to those who died.

Around 80 people are estimated to have died in the disaster in North Kensington on 14 June, with the fire spreading so fast and reaching temperatures of 1000C, experts are struggling to identify the victims. Families have been warned they may not have the remains of their loved ones returned to them.

The 2007 act says that an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter “if the way in which its activities are managed or organised … causes a person’s death and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased”.

Organisations guilty of the offence are liable to an "unlimited fine", but not imprisonment. Individuals cannot be charged with corporate manslaughter, an offence which is intended to work "in conjunction" with other forms of accountability.

The breach of the duty of care “is a gross breach if the conduct alleged … falls far below what can be reasonably be expected of the organisation in the circumstances”.

The police letter added: “In due course, a senior representative of each corporation will be formally interviewed by police in relation to the potential offence.”

The Met Police also released a statement on Thursday, stating that its investigation into the cause and spread of the fire was a "complex and far reaching investigation that by its very nature will take a considerable time to complete".