The fire risk assessor hired to check the safety of Grenfell Tower put letters after his name suggesting professional registrations that either did not exist or which he did not have, the inquiry into the disaster has heard.
Carl Stokes, a former firefighter who was recruited by the Grenfell landlord, used six “post-nominals” when he was bidding for the job but agreed under cross-examination at the inquiry into the disaster that they had either “come out of [his] own head because they didn’t exist or were thoroughly misleading truncations” of courses he had undertaken.
Stokes carried out six fire safety checks on the tower where 72 people died after the 14 June 2017 fire. They were undertaken from 2009 to 2016, before, during and after the disastrous refurbishment.
His job involved checking evacuation routes, firefighting equipment and vital safety measures including fire door closers, several of which were not working at the time of the fire. He told the inquiry he knew about the risk of combustible cladding on tall buildings, but said his job was to check the communal areas rather than the external cladding system or inside the flats.
Stokes, who set up as a fire risk assessor after retiring from the Oxfordshire fire and rescue service, got the job with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (TMO) after describing his qualification in a way that an expert to the inquiry said would “significantly mislead” clients.
In an example fire risk assessment he provided to the TMO when he was seeking the role, he claimed he was Fire Eng (FPA) – even though no such fire engineering qualification exists. He said he was an IFE Assessor / Auditor (FSO), giving the impression, the counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC suggested, that he was a member of the Institute of Fire Engineers, which he wasn’t.
He also wrote NEBOSH, FIA BS5839 System Designer and Competent Engineer BS 5266 after his name but agreed with Millett that “those aren’t post-nominals recognised by any professional body either”.
They in fact reflected courses he had attended, which did not entitle him to use post-nominals. He also claimed to have three years of experience as an independent fire risk assessor, when he had 15 months at most, the inquiry heard.
Stokes insisted that he did not intend to deceive and told the inquiry that if anyone had asked him, he would have told them he didn’t have the professional qualifications.
Asked about using the letters IFE, he said: “If you’d have looked it up I wouldn’t be on the list. There was never anything else to deceive, or even highlight anything else, but these are courses and competences. With hindsight it would have been a lot easier to have made it clear.”
Colin Todd, a fire engineer and an expert to the inquiry, said Stokes’ use of the letters after his name would “significantly mislead clients and potential clients as to his qualifications, regardless of his level of competence”.
Stokes did not accept this, saying: “If anybody had asked me I would have explained and told them … I didn’t understand the use of post-nominals, sorry.”
The inquiry also heard that when Stokes got his first work doing fire safety assessments in 2009 he claimed on his CV to have assessed and audited the common parts of high-rise blocks under the Fire Safety Order, a key piece of law. But when pressed on this he told the inquiry he has “walked around the council buildings in Oxford, the towers”.
“Looking at them is an audit,” he said, but then admitted he had never undertaken a fire risk assessment and what he had written was “incorrect”.
The inquiry continues.