The government has confirmed that the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, has given an undertaking to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry meaning that no oral evidence provided by individuals during modules 1, 2 and 3 of phase 2 will be used against the individual in any criminal proceedings.
It added that the evidence could not be used for the purpose of deciding whether to bring such proceedings against that individual. “However the undertaking does not prevent witness evidence from being used against corporations in any future prosecution,” it stressed.
In making the decision, the Attorney General took into consideration all representations received including those from victims and their representatives. She also consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Health and Safety Executive and the Metropolitan Police Service, the government said.
It added that the Attorney General had concluded that the undertaking was needed to enable the Inquiry to continue to hear vital evidence about the circumstances and causes of the fire. “Without it she has concluded that some witnesses would be likely to decline to give evidence.”
The Attorney General said: “In making this decision I have had the victims of the fire and their loved ones at the forefront of my mind. I cannot begin to imagine what they have gone through and I know that the issue of an undertaking will have caused them further anguish.
“The undertaking I am providing to the Inquiry means it can continue to take evidence from witnesses who otherwise would likely refuse to answer questions. These questions are important to finding out the truth about the circumstances of the fire. The undertaking will not jeopardise the police investigation or prospects of a future criminal prosecution.”
The Attorney General’s decision followed a request from the Panel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which is chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to grant witnesses the immunity they sought.
Lawyers to the witnesses had previously made it clear that in the absence of an undertaking those whose interest they represented would be likely to claim privilege against self-incrimination in response to any question which touched on the way in which they performed their functions in relation to the design of the refurbishment, the choice of materials used in it or the way in which the work was carried out.
The Panel said it was likely that others who were involved in the refurbishment were likely to adopt a similar position.
Counsel for the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the employees and former employees of Rydon Maintenance (the design and build contractor), and Osborne Berry (the company which fitted the cladding) supported the submissions made on behalf of those seeking immunity.
Their application was resisted vigorously by lawyers to the bereaved, survivors and residents.
The Local Government Association said at the time that it was “extremely concerned” that some witnesses to the Grenfell Inquiry could be granted immunity. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said it did not support the application either.