Barristers for the families of the people who died in a tower block fire in south London have called for an inquest date to be set.
Six people perished in the blaze at Lakanal House, Camberwell, on 3 July last year after the fire spread rapidly through the high rise.
DCI Rick Murphy told a pre-inquest hearing at Southwark Coroners Court today the Metropolitan Police investigations would not be ready until ‘at the earliest’ April next year.
‘This has been a complex case,’ he told the court. ‘It’s a criminal investigation led by the Metropolitan Police Service. Enquiries are still ongoing and if I refer this to the Crown Prosecution Service I do not expect that to happen before April.’
He explained the CPS would then be expected to take another 12 weeks to come to any decision whether to prosecute. Investigators’ reports and the results of forensic tests were still awaited on the Southwark Council tower block, he added.
Peter Mansi, from London Fire and Emergency Planning, said the fire investigation was almost complete but was awaiting reports from the Building Research Establishment. This report was likely to be finished by the end of April 2011, he said.
Barrister Michael Nicholson, representing families of those who died at Lakanal House, said to the coroner Judge Frances Kirkham: ‘We urge you to considering thinking of fixing a date for an inquest and if you are not able to do that, we would ask you to keep a tight reign on this case and certainly fix another pre-inquest hearing for a near date in the future.’
The families and their legal representatives were ‘extremely worried’ cases such as this could easily ‘drift’, he told the inquest. ‘Unless there’s a rigorous timetable, the inquest will not happen for years,’ he said.
This was echoed by other representatives for the families, Imran Khan and Marcia Willis Stewart.
Judge Kirkham finished the pre-inquest hearing saying: ‘The quicker this can be taken forward the better for everybody’. She said there would be a need for another pre-inquest hearing before the ‘super inquest’ covering all six deaths.
She did not set a date for the pre-inquest hearing, or the inquest.