AO Arena operator SMG and security and stewarding contractor Showsec were among those who provided opening statements as the public inquiry into the May 2017 terror attack at the Manchester venue resumed yesterday (Tuesday).
Salman Abedi killed himself and 22 others when he detonated a bomb in his rucksack as people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert at the then Manchester Arena, an attack that left hundreds more with serious injuries.
The Manchester Arena Inquiry was established on October 22, 2019 to investigate the deaths of the victims of the attack. The inquiry hearings commenced on September 7 with testimony from the victims’ families. Yesterday the hearings moved on to opening statements from SMG and Showsec, along with Greater Manchester Police (GMP), British Transport Police (BTP), North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and counter terror police.
Patrick Gibbs QC, representing BTP, said that the overall assessment of BTP’s response was “extremely good”, adding that he had “nothing negative” to say about other organisations. However, he stated a “carousel of blame” had been “sent spinning” by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, representing Showsec.
Laidlaw stated that while it was “not a question of buck-passing”, Showsec was contracted to provide crowd management services. He added that security was only part of its remit, stating that as Showsec mainly employed students on a part-time basis, subsequently limits could be expected in terms of counter-terrorism response.
The inquiry also heard that the arena’s foyer is classed as public throughfare as it provides access to Manchester’s Victoria railway station. Andrew O’Connor QC, representing SMG, admitted that while its risk assessments had “shortcomings” and “inadequacies”, the company did have security measures in place at the time of the attack that were “considered generally appropriate to mitigate terrorism risk”.
The hearing also yesterday heard how national anti-terror police had no information on Salman Abedi before he carried out his attack. It was also told how GMP’s force duty officer, Dale Sexton, elected not to tell other agencies that he had declared Operation Plato, launched when it is suspected there is an ongoing “marauding” terror incident, for fear it would lead to those caring for casualties to stop their work resulting in further loss of life, a decision his superiors deemed to be wrong.
In March, Hasham Abedi, the younger brother of Salman Abedi, was found guilty of murdering 22 people through helping to plan the atrocity. In August, he was sentenced to 55 years in prison. The inquiry continues.