Police investigating the Grenfell Tower fire have concluded there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the council’s tenant management organisation (TMO) may have committed corporate manslaughter.
Chiefs from both organisations will be formally interviewed by officers as part of the criminal investigation into the tragedy that claimed at least 80 lives.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to The Independent it had updated those affected by the fire today.
A statement circulated to those involved said an “initial assessment” of seized material and witness statements had allowed police to conclude that each organisation may have committed the offence.
Both organisations will be questioned under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
“We have seized a huge amount of material and taken a large number of witness statements,” the letter to those affected by the disaster 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 TMO 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.
“In due course, a senior representative fo each corporation will be formally interviewed by police in relation to the potential offence.”
It was unclear which senior figures will be interviewed by police and the legislation does not allow for the arrest of any individual.
A Met Police spokesperson told The Independent: “This is a complex and far reaching investigation that by its very nature will take a considerable time to complete.
“The Met has made a commitment to the families who lost loved ones in the fire and survivors that they will be kept updated, as far as we possibly can, as the investigation continues.
“As is routine, we will not give a running commentary on this investigation.”
Samia Badani, residents association chair for Bramley House – a block that overlooks the tower – told The Independent the move was a positive step forward for the community.
“I’m very pleased, I think over the years we have had a very good relationship with local police and the relationship with the council is the opposite,” she said.
“We are so bruised in the community that we needed some reassurances so it’s a step forward.”
It comes after a number of stakeholders from both RBKC and the TMO resigned in the wake of the tragedy over accusations they ignored a catalogue of warnings over fire safety.
The council’s chief executive Nicholas Holgate was the first to step down in the aftermath over the borough’s handling of the fire.
“Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed,” he said in a statement on 21 June.
A week later, TMO leader Robert Black stepped aside to “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry”, followed by RBKC leader Nick Paget-Brown and deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen just hours later.
Council leader Elizabeth Campbell said she would fully support the Met’s investigation.
“Our residents deserve answers about the Grenfell Tower fire and the police investigation will provide these. We fully support the Metropolitan Police investigation and we will cooperate in every way we can,” she said.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further on matters subject to the police investigation.”
The news comes after family and friends of five of those killed in the blaze, including two child victims, gathered to remember their loved ones.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, joined a congregation in north Kensington, little more than half a mile from the scene of the disaster.
The lives of artist Khadija Saye, her mother Mary Mendy, Berkti Haftom and her 12-year-old son Beruk, as well as five-year-old Isaac Paulos were being celebrated at the ecumenical service in St Helen’s Church.
The service opened with a recording of Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World”, and the Gospel For Grenfell choir later sang a number of well-known songs including “Something Inside So Strong”.
Ms Saye’s cousin Adelaide Mendy recalled the fear and panic on the night of the fire, and her desperate hope that her relatives would not be caught up in it.
She told those gathered: “I felt an excruciating and an almost unbearable pain. I felt powerless at the thought that there was nothing else that I could have done.”