Manchester Arena Inquiry Volume 3: Radicalisation and Preventability
2 March 2023
Opportunities for sharing intelligence which were missed by MI5 have been highlighted in the third report from the The Manchester Arena Inquiry.
Manchester Arena Inquiry Volume 3: Radicalisation and Preventability, published today, focuses on the radicalisation of the bomber Salman Abedi, the planning and preparation of the attack and how the attack might have been prevented.
One of the main issues highlighted by the Inquiry Chair Sir John Saunders, was the ‘significant missed opportunity to take action that might have prevented the Attack,’ and that there was ‘a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the Attack.’
Specifically, this opportunity relates to two separate occasions in the months prior to the Attack, when intelligence was received by the Security Service but not shared with Counter Terrorism Police despite security service personnel assessing that the first piece of intelligence ‘might have some national security significance’, and the second indicated ‘the possibility of activity of pressing national security concern’.
One witness, Witness J, claimed in their evidence that the two pieces were, at the time, assessed to relate not to terrorism but to possible non-nefarious activity or to non-terrorist criminality’ on the part of Salman Abedi. And Lord Anderson, in a Panorama interview, also said that the MI5 had told him it had been ‘interpreted it as to do probably with drugs or organised crime and not something to do with terrorism or national security.’
However, in the report Sir John rejects this narrative saying that he doesn’t consider the statements ‘present an accurate picture.’
In a rather damning paragraph of the report for MI5, Sir John writes: ‘The witnesses who gave direct factual evidence to me during the closed hearing were able to offer real insight into their thought processes at the time. On occasion, it became apparent that the Security Service’s corporate position did not reflect what those officers did, thought or would have done at the material time. Rather, the corporate position was more by way of a retrospective justification for the actions taken or not taken.’
MI5 Chief Ken McCallum has now apologised for the failings of the security service but not the apparent lack of candour in their corporate position. This is another example of why a Duty of Candour is so vital in such investigations and why Pete Weatherby KC and fellow GCN barristers and campaigners have been calling for the implementation of Hillsborough Law.
Pete Weatherby KC, Anna Morris, Mira Hammad and Christian Weaver from GCN’s Inquests and Inquiries team, and Harriet Johnson from Doughty St Chambers represent seven of the bereaved families at the Inquiry, instructed by Nicola Brook of Broudie Jackson Canter Solicitors, and Terry Wilcox of Hudgell Solicitors.
Nicola Brook, who represents five victims’ families, said:
‘The families who lost loved ones note that the report has acknowledged that there were significant failings by security services and that this tragedy might have been prevented if the security services had done their job properly.
‘Throughout the Inquiry, M15 maintained that no one else was knowingly involved in the Attack. However, the Chair has found that it is likely that there were others knowingly involved in plotting a bomb. He also found that it was likely that Salman and Hashem Abedi received instruction to make an IED in Libya in 2016. He said there was a “material possibility” that Salman Abedi acquired the switch that detonated the bomb in Libya and that it was possible that he was carrying the switch for with him when he returned to the UK via Manchester Airport on the 18th May 2017. The families believe that had he been stopped on entry to the UK it is likely that the plot would have been discovered or disrupted.
‘It is disappointing that the families will never know the full truth of what happened. All of the families signed an undertaking not to reveal confidential information which they have not breached. They, above all others are entitled to know what the security services knew and had the most interest in keeping it confidential.’
‘We also note that additional information that wasn’t available to Lord Anderson in his Post Attack Review and was only available to the Chair after he pursued it. This is why we are campaigning for the introduction of a Hillsborough Law to ensure public officials have a duty to tell the truth to public inquiries or face criminal action.’
Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose was killed in the blast, said:
‘Our beautiful little girl lost her life because of the failings of the security services and today’s report acknowledges that MI5 might have prevented the bombing.
We all heard the evidence and knew there were failings, but hearing how this tragedy might have been avoided is devastating for us all. This was a cataclysmic failure, and it is clear from all of the evidence we have heard about Abedi that there were many opportunities for the security services to have ensured the bombing never happened. In my view the fact that MI5 failed to stop him despite all of the red flags available demonstrates they are not fit to keep us safe and therefore not fit for purpose.’
Media coverage of the Volume 3 report.