THE SURVIVORS and bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster are in shock and very angry. They know this tragedy was preventable and that residents had warned the landlord and Kensington and Chelsea council over and over again that the place was a dangerous fire hazard – and were told to stop being a nuisance. Now they know that the insulation cladding around that building was very flammable – even though there has been a law in London against using flammable materials in house construction passed in 1666 after the great fire of London.
Health and safety regulations have been weakened by the Tory government “war on red tape” but even so what remains of health and safety laws have been broken – by builders, planners, council officials – by people.
The council also totally failed to use its emergency reserves to provide help and support for the survivors – many of whom were left traumatised in just the night clothes they had on as they escaped from the inferno. The aid and support these people received came from local residents and shopkeepers, a mosque and various charities. The council went into hiding and refused to speak to an increasingly angry public.
Police last week said they believe that they have enough evidence to bring a case of corporate manslaughter against those who are guilty. But the Corporate Manslaughter Act of 2007 allows a corporation to be sued but no individuals in that corporation can be singled out for charges. If found guilty, the corporation gets fined but no one goes to jail. And the fines would be taken out of the coffers of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. And guess who would suffer most from this cut in the council’s budget – the people needing support services from the council, including the surviving victims!
An inquiry is under-way, quickly set in place by Theresa May’s government, with an extremely narrow remit to investigate only what happened on the night – but even this may have to be suspended if court cases are brought.
The victims need and deserve justice – it is hard to recover from a crime like this whilst the criminals are still in office and still mainly looking after themselves. They need the guilty people to be in court and in jail. They need genuine remorse from the guilty. But everything in our justice system is rigged to prevent this happening.
The total number of dead is still a mystery, but since the tragedy 20 survivors have attempted suicide and four of them tragically succeeded. This crime is continuing to kill people.
This is not the first time that the British justice system has failed the victims of crime; 51 years ago in the mining village of Aberfan, 116 children and 28 adults died when an unstable colliery slag heap slid down a hill and engulfed the Pantglas Junior School.
The slag heap was unstable because it was sited on top of two natural springs – well known and marked on maps. The locals knew it was dangerous and said so but the National Coal Board (NCB), headed by Lord Robens, insisted on continuing to pile mountains of waste on this insecure base.
The disaster wiped out a generation of children from that small village. The lives of the bereaved families were devastated.
And there was the same anger that the people of Grenfell Tower are feeling now. There were inquiries, inquests and campaigns, and bit by bit over the last 50 years the NCB, which no longer exists, was forced to admit that the disaster was not down to natural causes.
We now know exactly what happened but no case was ever brought to court and no guilty person was ever charged.
And there are so many other instances: Hillsborough, the truth is finally out and the guilty have been named but they are not yet in jail. There have been thousands of unnecessary deaths in custody, especially of young black men; again the campaigns with varying degrees of success in finding the truth but still not one police officer in jail.
The British state guards its officers and agents well. They get away literally with murder and are never brought to account. And it is anger at this burning injustice that will, sooner or later, play a big role in bringing down that state.