In his closing statement at the end of Phase 2 of the inquiry, Richard Millett KC, lead counsel for the inquiry, said the evidence showed that “every one of the risks which eventuated at Grenfell Tower on that night were well known by many and ought to have been known by all who had any part to play.
“As a result you will be able to conclude with confidence that each and every one of the deaths that occurred … was avoidable,” he said. The fire resulted in the deaths of 172 of the building’s occupants.
Millett said a mixture of incompetence and poor practices in the construction industry led to the tragedy. These included “weak and incompetent building control, cynical and possibly even dishonest practices in the cladding and insulation materials manufacturing sector [and] incompetence, weakness and malpractice by those responsible for testing and certifying those materials”, as well as failures by the London Fire Brigade and of government.
At the beginning of the inquiry, Millett said the various organisations involved would “engage in a merry-go-round of buck-passing” in order to avoid any blame for the fire. But even now, he said, “the merry-go-round turns still, the notes of its melody clearly audible in the last few days.”
Those responsible for the building and the building environment “sought to exculpate themselves and to pin the blame on others … Expressions of regret for the victims of the fire have been as common, to the point of trite, as admissions of responsibility have been rare,” he said.
Instead of accepting responsibility for their role in the fire, many core participants “have sought to use the enquiry as an opportunity to position themselves for any legal proceedings which might or might not follow in order to minimise their own exposure to legal liability”.
Millett used his closing statement to illustrate how various core participants pointed the finger each other and created a ‘web of blame’. These include the cladding manufacturer Arconic, insulation manufacturers Celotex and Kingspan, main contractor Rydon, cladding specialist Harley Facades, fire safety consultant Exova, architect Studio E and testing and certification bodies the BRE and BBA.
Both local and central government were also culpable, said Millett.
The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is expected to publish a full report in the second half of next year. Any criminal proceedings brought by the Metropolitan Police are unlikely to start until 2024.