Key individuals involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower are seeking a guarantee they will not be prosecuted based on evidence they give to the public inquiry.
Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick drew gasps in the hearing room when he said witnesses from contractors Harley Facades and Rydon, and the tenant management organization, “as well as some others”, wanted the guarantee.
Sir Martin said: “What they are asking me to do is to apply to the attorney general for an undertaking that nothing said by a witness in answer to questions asked in the inquiry will be used in furtherance of a prosecution against them . “
He added that they feel it would allow them to have the “complete freedom to tell the truth without any concern for their future.”
Sir Martin also said: “Very recently I ‘ ve been advised that, when they are called to give evidence, which of course will start next week, many of the witnesses who were involved in the design and choice of materials are likely to claim privilege against self-incrimination as a reason for not answering questions.
“This development has caused me a little surprise because hitherto there has been the fullest co-operation with the inquiry, both in the form of giving written statements and in the provision of documents, and no-one so far has sought to avoid doing that or to answer any of our questions on those grounds. “
The request will be considered at the inquiry on Thursday afternoon ahead of the first witness testimony on Monday.
A witness is able to refuse to answer questions at an inquiry if they feel it might incriminate them, under section of the Inquiries Act 2005, and the attorney general has, in previous cases, agreed that no oral or written evidence “will be used in evidence against him or her in any criminal proceedings “- unless they are charged with conspiring to, or giving false evidence.
The request comes after it was revealed on Tuesday that some of the firms involved in the refurbishment of the tower were aware that some of the materials used would be flammable
The second phase of the inquiry into the fire began this week and will look at the refurbishment of the tower, after the first phase ranked last year.
Wednesday’s session will begin to hear from the lawyers of Kensington and Chelsea Council and their tenant management organization.
The inquiry will also hear from the lawyer of the mayor of London in the afternoon.
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