Shaffick Brimer outside Isleworth Crown Court last Monday
A Grenfell fraudster who claimed £31,776.59 from the disaster fund has been jailed for five years – after suspicions arose when he spelt the name of the tower ‘Glenfell’ on official forms.
Sheffick Brimer, 50, told authorities he lived with Majorie Vital, 68, and her son Ernie – who both died on the 19th floor on June 14, 2017 – before claiming the cost of two hotel rooms in the months following the tragedy.
Brimer, from Acton, London, was found guilty of fraud by false representation after a jury at Isleworth Crown Court heard he took advantage of the ‘help first, ask questions later’ culture that followed the deaths of 72 people.
Giving evidence, Ms Vital’s brother Macloud Vital, told the court his sister would never have had a lodger and didn’t even answer her door unless she was expecting someone.
Brimer stood in the dock wearing a crucifix earring and a black puffer jacket, mumbling unintelligibly to the judge as he passed sentence.
Judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh told Brimer: ‘You pretended to be a resident in the tower and decided to cash in on the resources made available for genuine victims.
‘You often quite aggressively made your demands and your perceived need was met.
‘Then you were accommodated at the expense of the public funds, put aside to assist the genuine victims of the disaster in their hour of need.
Brimer, 50, told authorities he lived with Majorie Vital, 68, and her son Ernie – who both died on the 19th floor on June 14, 2017 – before claiming the cost of two hotel rooms in the months following the tragedy. Pictured, the tower
‘Over the months you ran up bills and services of £31,776.59, earmarked for genuine victims, you made a number of implausible claims at the hearing.
‘One of which was the plainly false claim that you had anything to do with Ms Vital, who had the tragic loss of life in the fire.
‘You have shown no remorse and even now seem to want to talk to me rather than listen.’
Isleworth Crown Court heard Brimer claimed he was subletting a room from a mother and son who were found ‘fused together’ after the inferno (pictured)
Brimer was first moved to four-star Park Plaza County Hall Hotel on 8 August, 2017, but then had to be moved to Park Grand Paddington Hotel when he complained about the condition of his first room.
Detective Constable Lucy Hall led the investigation. She said: ‘Brimer was never a resident of Grenfell Tower and using this tragedy as a way to receive free accommodation and food at the cost of the council is completely despicable and appalling.
‘He even had the audacity to complain about his initial accommodation and was moved to a second hotel. Witnesses also said he was rude and aggressive to hotel staff.
Brimer outside Isleworth Crown Court on Monday. Brimer stood in the dock wearing a crucifix earring and a black puffer jacket, mumbling unintelligibly to the judge as he passed sentence
‘Brimer’s behaviour compounds the upset of individuals who have been traumatised by the Grenfell fire and is disrespectful to the victims who he claimed he was living with.’
Brimer waited a month before making a claim for emergency accommodation following the tragedy.
The court heard Brimer first approached the council on 18 July and was given accommodation at the Park Plaza County Hall that day until August 7 totalling £5,384.
It was said he later moved to the Park Grand hotel, where he stayed until December 11, totalling £24,000.
A taxi fare he is alleged to have taken from volunteer Hagir Ahmed was £20.
Prosecutor Szilia Brooker revealed Brimer pretended he had been in hospital at the time of the blaze, but none of his GP or hospital records showed he had been there on the dates after the fire.
He later admitted to being in prison at the time.
‘On 11 December he was invited to speak to council officials, he gave a very detailed account to those people, it’s as a result of that account that a number of enquiries followed,’ said Ms Booker.
‘Primarily he said the reason why it took him a month to make contact and apply for emergency accommodation was because at the time of the blaze he was in hospital.’
On one of the emergency support forms he completed he wrote ‘Glenfell Tower’ as his address.
Ms Booker described it as ‘a mistake anyone who lived there may never make’.
Elizabeth Robert-Mills, centre manager for the Westway Centre said he was very abusive in asking for cash despite the fact she didn’t usually give money that way.
She added that after the fire she had to think of the safety of all the people in the centre.
‘He was asking for cash. He said it was his first day and that he needed a haircut, said he was subletting when it happened. I gave him clothing, an oyster card and cash,’ she said.
Brimer (pictured) waited a month before making a claim for emergency accommodation following the tragedy
‘I didn’t believe it was genuine but it was humanitarian aid and I had to give him the benefit of doubt.’
DC Paul Harris told the court the building’s CCTV quality was excellent and Brimer couldn’t be seen entering the building at all dating back to April that year.
Phillip McKee, defending, revealed Brimer had a drug habit from around 2008 until 2018 which led to other convictions.
He added: ‘For the last five years or more he has been of no fixed address and has spent time in addresses of various different types, nothing of long fixture or certainly.
‘He says the reason why was that some years ago his partner died when still very young, suddenly and unexpectedly. The effect was to increase his consumption with drink.
Brimer was convicted after three hours deliberation and was sentenced to five years imprisonment (file image)
‘It also meant that as his life spiralled out of control, perhaps unsurprisingly with that spiral came the loss of social ties, leading to a precarious and homeless existence.
‘There was an element of calculation and one cannot escape that, but the person guilty of that was himself.
‘Perhaps to a significant extent when he did it he was ground down by those circumstances of his life, not all of which were necessarily attributed to his own conduct, though some of it was.’
Brimer was convicted after three hours deliberation and was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Four of the eleven jurors stayed in court to see Brimer sentenced.
The 46 wide-ranging recommendations in Grenfell report including a complete overhaul of evacuation guidelines, fire door inspections and floor number signs
Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick has identified 46 changes that should be made to ensure the safety of high-rise residents.
These touch on the ways the buildings are designed, constructed, approved and managed and how fire and rescue services respond.
When deciding on the recommendations, Sir Martin said he had particularly considered their capacity for ‘making a significant contribution to the safety of those who live in high-rise buildings’.
Here are the key recommendations, plus the areas to be looked at in phase two.
- the Government must develop national guidelines for carrying out partial or total evacuations of high-rise residential buildings, which include procedures for evacuating people who are unable to use the stairs in an emergency, or who may require assistance (eg disabled people, older people and young children)
- fire and rescue services must develop policies and training for partial and total evacuation of high-rise residential buildings
- all current and future high-rise residential buildings must be equipped with sounders or similar devices enabling fire services to send an evacuation signal to the whole or a selected part of the building
- all fire and rescue services must be equipped with smoke hoods for evacuation through smoke-filled exit routes
The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building must:
- draw up and regularly review evacuation plans, provide copies in electronic and paper form to their local fire service and place in an information box on the premises
- prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised and keep these in the information box
- the owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings must provide fire safety and evacuation instructions in a form that the occupants of the building can reasonably be expected to understand
- The LFB’s policies must be amended to draw a clearer distinction between callers seeking advice and callers who believe they are trapped and need rescuing
- all fire and rescue services must develop policies for handling a large number of fire survival guidance (FSG) calls simultaneously
- electronic systems must be developed to record FSG information in the control room and display it simultaneously in units at the fire
- policies must be developed for managing a transition from ‘stay put’ to ‘get out’
- control room staff must receive training on handling such a change of advice and conveying it effectively to callers
- the owner and manager of every residential building containing separate dwellings must carry out an urgent inspection of all fire doors
- they must carry out checks no less than every three months to ensure that all fire doors are fitted with effective self-closing devices in working order
- all those who have responsibility for the condition of the entrance doors to individual flats in high-rise residential buildings with unsafe cladding must ensure that they comply with current standards
- floor numbers must be clearly marked on each landing within the stairways and prominently in all lobbies so they are visible both in normal conditions, low lighting and smoke
Plans and inspections:
The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building must:
- provide their local fire service with information about the design and materials of its external walls and inform them of any material changes
- provide their fire service with up-to-date paper and electronic floor plans, showing key fire safety systems
- regularly inspect lifts intended to be used by firefighters in an emergency, test the mechanism which allows firefighters to take control of them and report the results to the fire service every month
All fire and rescue services must:
- ensure that all officers of the rank of crew manager and above are trained and aware of the requirements expected during inspections of high-rise buildings
- be equipped to receive and store electronic plans and to make them available to incident commanders and control room managers
- ensure that all staff understand the risk of fire taking hold in the external walls and know how to recognise this
- all officers who may be expected to act as incident commanders must receive training on communication with the control room
- all control room operators of assistant operations manager rank and above must receive training on communication with the incident commander
- a dedicated communication link must be provided between the senior officer in the control room and the incident commander
Command and control:
- the LFB must develop policies and training to ensure better control of deployments and the use of resources
- the LFB must develop policies and training to ensure that better information is obtained from crews returning from deployments and that it can be made available immediately to the incident commander
- the LFB must develop a communication system to enable direct communication between the control room and the incident commander and improve the means of communication between the incident commander and the bridgehead
- the LFB must investigate the use of modern communication techniques to provide a direct line of communication between the control room and the bridgehead
- the LFB must urgently take steps to obtain equipment that enables firefighters wearing helmets and breathing apparatus to communicate with the bridgehead effectively
- the LFB must urgently take steps to ensure that the command support system is fully operative on all command units and that crews are trained in its use
- each emergency service must communicate the declaration of a major incident to each other as soon as possible
- clear lines of communication must be established as soon as possible between the control rooms of the individual emergency services
- steps must be taken to investigate the compatibility of the emergency services’ systems with a view to enabling them to read each others’ messages
- Emergency services and local authorities must investigate ways of improving the collection of information about survivors and making it available more rapidly to those wishing to make contact with them
Sir Martin did not make recommendations in certain areas, instead saying they fall under the remit of the inquiry’s second phase. These are:
- whether the regulations relating to high-rise buildings in England and Wales should be changed to apply to buildings lower than 18 metres
- whether the use of combustible materials on the outside of high-rises should be banned
- the testing and certification of materials
- the installation of sprinklers