The first of three reports to be published as a result of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, which began in September, criticises British Transport Police (BTP), venue operators SMG, and security providers Showsec.
As a result of the Inquiry, chairman Sir John Saunders said he supports the introduction of Protect Duty legislation, based on the suggested ‘Martyn’s Law’, that would require venues to improve security with consideration made for potential terrorist attacks.
The suggestion of a ‘Martyn’s Law’ has been led by Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett who died in the 2017 attack at Manchester Arena.
The inquiry report, which examined security arrangements at an Ariana Grande concert at the arena on 22 May 2017 when a terrorist attack led to the death of 22 people, suggests bomber Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack.
The reports said there was a “striking” missed opportunity to apprehend the bomber on the night of the attack after a member of the public raised concerns to stewards about Abedi’s suspicious behaviour. The stewards investigated the concerns and attempted to alert a superior via radio, but the efforts were deemed “inadequate” by Saunders.
He said, “Everybody concerned with security at the arena should have been doing their job in the knowledge that a terrorist attack might occur on that night. They weren’t. No-one believed it could happen to them.”
Among the key security failures identified in the 204-page report are that the bomber hid in a CCTV blindspot which had existed for years. If addressed the attack could have been “disrupted or deterred or fewer people killed”.
It said risk assessments by SMG and Showsec were “inadequate”, and the security company was criticised for not ensuring staff properly checked the mezzanine where the terrorist hid.
Steward counter-terrorism training was deemed a significant failure, while it said SMG and Showsec failed to take steps to improve security at the arena that they should have taken.
SMG, which has since merged with AEG Facilities to become ASM Global, issued a statement in response to the report in which it said it has been committed to working with the Inquiry to help the families of victims and survivors better understand the events of that evening, as well as look at the lessons learnt.
It said that while expert witnesses during the Inquiry process stated that they did not see evidence that the security operation in place at Manchester Arena was out of step with the operations being used at other comparable venues, that didn’t provide any comfort: “Our guests came to the arena to enjoy a show but were met with a horrific tragedy. For that we are truly sorry.”
It continued, “All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night and our security measures continue to evolve to reflect the threats we face today. Since the attack, we have further extended the security perimeter, adopted a more intensive approach to checking and searching including the use of walk through metal detectors and installed a new CCTV and access control system.
“However, out of respect for those who tragically lost their lives on the 22May 2017, and those whose lives changed forever, we can never be satisfied that we have done enough.
“To that end, we will be reviewing the report findings in detail and the recommendations that have been put forward. Any additional actions we should take, we will take as we continuously challenge ourselves to be better.”
In response to the report acting CEO of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) Michelle Russell said, “The report findings provide learning and reflection for all concerned. It also makes some observations and recommendations about the regulatory framework and aspects of SIA’s approach to regulation in and prior to 2017.
While many things have changed since 2017, there is always more that can be learned, and more improvements that can be made.
We are committed to working with the private security industry, law enforcement and other partners in a robust way.”
The report can be found in full here.