Manchester Arena Inquiry final speeches

16 March 2022

Pete Weatherby QC

‘The idea that the scrutiny or criticisms of a public inquiry might in some way adversely affect national security is not just plain wrong, it is corrosive in that it undermines confidence.’

On 14 March 2022 the Manchester Arena Inquiry heard final speeches from advocates for the families regarding whether the bombing should have been prevented by the security services.

Pete Weatherby QC, representing seven of the families, asserted that this was the most complicated terror plot in the UK since 7/7, involving multiple ‘moving parts’ and that MI5’s assertion that there is no evidence that anyone other than the Abedi brothers was knowingly involved “defied gravity”.

Pete also said, in response to the assertion that the inquest itself would be damaging to morale of MI5 that: “A healthy organisation welcomes scrutiny; only unhealthy ones seek to avoid it.’

‘The idea that the scrutiny or criticisms of a public inquiry might in some way adversely affect national security is not just plain wrong, it is corrosive in that it undermines confidence.’

The refusal to accept that there had been failures by MI5 and Counter Terror Police (CTP) indicated that they were more interested in defending reputations than learning lessons. Attention was drawn to the fact that important evidence of communications between the bomber, Salman Abedi, and a convicted IS facilitator, more than two years before the bombing, had been in the possession of CTP but they had inexplicably failed to attribute the messages to Abedi, and there was a dispute between CTP and MI5 as to whether this information had been shared between them.

Furthermore, this failure was not identified to internal post-attack reviews, or the subsequent reviews of Lord Anderson (the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation at the time) or the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, both of whom investigated the bombing and published reports on it. Pete Weatherby QC referred to a number of missed opportunities to discover and stop the plot, and despite a stream of intelligence regarding the bomber, Salman Abedi, he was not subject to any real interest by the security services at the time.

Pete called on the chair to make robust and forthright conclusions, so that other families will not face the same catastrophic loss of loved ones in the future.

Pete Weatherby QC, Anna Morris, Mira Hammad and Christian Weaver from GCN, and Harriet Johnson from Doughty St Chambers represent seven of the bereaved families at the Inquiry, instructed by Nicola Brook of Brodie Jackson Canter Solicitors, and Terry Wilcox of Hudgells Solicitors.

News reports about the final speeches can be viewed below:

The full transcript of the speeches is available to read here, or you can watch the speeches online.

‘Failure which is not fully addressed will recur and more lives will be lost.’

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