UK police may consider manslaughter charges after finding tower cladding failed safety tests in blaze that killed 79.
Campaigners rejected a British police statement that there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that local authorities may have committed corporate manslaughter in a deadly high-rise fire in London, saying the punishment for the charge – a fine – is too light.
The Metropolitan Police force wrote to residents of the Grenfell Tower on Thursday and said officers might interview senior members of the local council and the housing association that ran the public housing block.
The officer leading the case informed the Kensington and Chelsea council and the Chelsea Tenant Management Association that they “may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter”, the letter said.
But since the offence is punishable by a fine, and not prison time, activists have decried the charge.
David Lammy, a Labour MP, said a fine “would not represent justice for the Grenfell victims and their families”.
At least 80 people died in the June 14 fire, Britain’s deadliest blaze in more than a century.
In a statement on Twitter, Lammy called on the police to consider gross negligence manslaughter charges instead as it entails jail time.
Justice for Grenfell, a campaign group, also said it wanted to see individuals named, charged and put on trial.
“Survivors, bereaved families, evacuated residents and the wider community have been demanding arrests be made,” the group said in a statement.
Angry residents want to know how building regulations, meant to be among the world’s best, could have failed so catastrophically.
Many accuse officials in Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s richest boroughs, of ignoring their safety concerns because the building was home to a largely immigrant and working-class population.
The news also drew strong criticism on social media:
— #JusticeForGrenfell (@just4grenfell) July 27, 2017
Shocking to think even if those responsible for #Grenfell fire are charged with 'corporate manslaughter ' they can only get a fine!
— Wendy Bacon (@Wendy_Bacon) July 27, 2017
Exactly!!! That's we've been campaigning for an criminal inquest NOT A public enquiry with no teeth #Grenfell
— Grenfell Watch 🌹 (@grenfellwatch) July 27, 2017
That is partially better; however, it does not answer who pays. The residents via council tax? That'd mean victims pay the fine! Hmmn.
— Universal Basic Income Now, Fuckers! (@holski_beat) July 27, 2017
Why is corporate manslaughter treated so lightly? This fire was caused by greed and a deep disregard for people who are less well off.
— Helen Burgess (@Helen_Burgess1) July 27, 2017
This is a disgusting betrayal !!!
— Peter Burton (@pgb1758) July 27, 2017
Police told the Associated Press news agency that it had not made a decision on whether to charge any individual or organisation.
Investigations by the police, fire fighters and others are under way to determine how a blaze that started with a refrigerator in one apartment got out of control so quickly in the 24-storey building.
Attention has focused on the building’s new aluminium cladding, installed during a recent renovation, that could also affect thousands of other buildings in the country.