Manchester Arena terror attack deaths to be subject of public inquiry

By Eleanor Barlow, PA

A public inquiry will be held into the deaths of the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena terror attack, the Home Secretary has announced.

Last month Sir John Saunders, who had been appointed as coroner for inquests into the deaths, wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel confirming he had decided a statutory public inquiry was necessary.

He made the decision after granting applications by the Home Office and police for public interest immunity (PII) on the grounds of protecting national security and ruled that disclosing some evidence in public would “assist terrorists” in carrying out similar atrocities.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Yui Mok/PA)

Setting up a public inquiry would mean that such evidence could be heard in private session without the families of the victims and their lawyers being present.

On Tuesday, the Home Secretary announced inquest proceedings should be adjourned and an inquiry established to ensure that all relevant evidence could be heard.

She said: “It is vital that those who survived or lost loved ones in the Manchester Arena attack get the answers that they need and that we learn the lessons, whatever they may be.

“This process is an important step for those affected as they look to move on from the attack and I know that they want answers as quickly as possible.

“I am determined to make this happen, while ensuring the proper processes are followed.

“Now that the coroner has decided that an inquest cannot properly investigate the deaths, I have agreed to establish an inquiry to consider all the information so that he can make appropriate recommendations.”

Hudgell Solicitors, which represents the families of two victims, said the need to satisfy the need of survivors and victims’ relatives for answers should be “remembered at all stages”.

The firm’s Vicky Richardson said: “It is also crucial that the security services and police learn vital lessons to ensure all is done to prevent a similar attack in the future.

“Whilst we appreciate that many will have concerns over some elements of the inquiry being held in private, we fully understand the reasoning behind the decision to allow issues of national security to be considered and investigated out of the public spotlight.”

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 2017.

At a pre-inquest review hearing on September 6 Sir John reassured families that public interest immunity “will not be used as a device for covering up responsibility” and that he will do his “very best” to ensure that does not happen.