Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
June 17, 2021

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Manchester Arena Inquiry

First report into Manchester Arena Inquiry highlights “missed opportunities” in identifying security threat

Volume 1 of the Public Inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, which claimed the lives of 22 people on 22nd May 2017, has been published – it highlights several ‘missed opportunities’ in the security arrangements for detecting and stopping the bomber, Salman Abedi.

Chairman of the Inquiry, The Hon Sir John Saunders, has released Volume 1 of his report into the Manchester Arena attack, where hundreds were injured and 22 people died. The explosion was caused by Salman Abedi – referred to as SA throughout the report – detonating a bomb in the City Room close to one of the exit doors of the arena.

ManchesterArenaInquiry-Report1-21The first volume focuses on the security arrangements in place at the arena, which Mr Saunders argues “should have prevented or minimised the devastating impact of the attack”, but failed to do so, with a “number of opportunities missed”. Those suggested to be principally responsible were SMG (operator of the arena), Showsec (contacted to provide crowd control and event security at the concert), and the British Transport Police (carried out policing in the area the attack was carried out).

Evidence was taken from 53 witnesses over a period of 32 days, with over 1000 documents examined.

In his comments to Parliament, Mr Saunders said: “I have concluded that there were serious shortcomings in the security provided by those organisations which had responsibility for it, and also failings and mistakes by some individuals.

“When the mistakes and shortcomings set out in the report are considered, it needs to be at the forefront of that consideration that responsibility for what happened and for causing so many deaths and serious injuries lies with Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber, and his brother, Hashem, who assisted with the preparations.”

In the report, it was noted that the threat level of a terrorist attack was ‘Severe’ in the UK at the time, and therefore an incident was ‘highly likely’ to occur at such an event, but the preparedness was not sufficient from security staff. Hostile reconnaissance was carried out several times by the bomber, it was found, and he was able to identify a CCTV blindspot where he hid for nearly an hour in the Arena Foyer on the night of the attack.

Hours of CCTV examined by the inquiry also showed the attacker bent under the weight of a “bulging rucksack, at one point fiddling with wires sticking out of his clothes.”

Noteworthy concerns the report highlights include:

  • A lack of staff preparedness
  • A lack of communication regarding suspicious behaviour between security employees
  • Insufficient sharing of information between those concerned with security in the arena

Recommendations following the first stage of the inquiry include:

  • Implementation of the Protect Duty (currently under consultation, which ends on 2nd July) and that requirements are stringent for premises such as arenas
  • Continuous reminders to security staff and others whose job includes being alert to terrorism of the current terror threat level
  • Full briefings for those responsible for security at every event about the level of risk of terrorist attack
  • Any and all suspicious behaviour by the public should be noted and reported promptly for investigation purposes
  • The need for communication, coordination and co-operation between those responsible for keeping the public safe

Several points were made by Mr Saunders on the requirement of the Protect Duty to be stringent, commenting: “Having heard about the effect of the deaths of the 22 people who died on their families and friends and the effect on those left permanently injured, I consider that a rigorous duty is appropriate.”

Read the full report, here: Volume 1 of the Manchester Arena Inquiry: Security for the Arena


Comments from the security industry

Acting Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), Michelle Russell, said: “Our thoughts today are with those who lost loved ones, suffered injuries, and had their lives shattered because of that terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena that night.

“Our priority in licensing individual security officers and working with suppliers of private security to improve standards, is always the protection of the public. 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.

“Whilst 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 to make sure the learning from the inquiry’s findings is taken forward.”

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has also responded. Highlighting that  “many security companies regularly go above and beyond the call of duty to maintain their integrity and the security services they provide, something that as an Association we promote within our recognised membership. However, we feel the time has come for security services to be purchased on a risk and professionalism basis and not purely on cost, and the industry to be seen for what it is, a profession and not a minimum wage job.” You can read the BSIA’s full response to the Inquiry’s findings, here.

Agreeing with the need for a Protect Duty, Iain Moran, Director at ATG Access, also added: “One of the most startling findings in today’s report is just how important it is to guard against complacency amongst security staff when it comes to the potential for terrorist activity. The number of ‘missed opportunities’ highlighted really underlines the crucial role that police, security staff, and other employees play in the prevention of devastating events such as these.

“However, it’s also clear that there were failings in the physical security measures at the arena too, with poorly planned perimeter security and CCTV blind spots making it harder for those involved to identify and apprehend the attacker. This emphasises the need for a holistic approach to security, where carefully implemented and maintained physical security solutions are in place that make it possible for security professionals to do their job as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Protecting cities and public spaces will be on the agenda at IFSEC Connect on 22nd June, so do join us as we discuss the current challenges and threats faced by the security sector, and what considerations need to be in place going forwards. Register for free via the link below! 

Connect with the security industry online 1-30 June

Connect 2021 is your first major opportunity to come together with the security industry online from 1-30 June!

The month-long online event will give attendees the opportunity to make up for lost time by browsing security solutions, connecting with suppliers and accessing thought-leadership content - all from the comfort of your own home or workplace!

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