Response to Arena bombing ‘wholly inadequate’ – emergency services chiefs

Emergency services chiefs have apologised for their “wholly inadequate and totally ineffective” response to the Manchester Arena bombing.

Their words came after the publication of a report which found one of the 22 people murdered would probably have survived but for inadequacies in the emergency response.

Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Stephen Watson told a press conference the force’s failings were “significant”, adding: “We failed to plan effectively and the execution of that which was planned was simply not good enough.”

GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson, left to right, BTP Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, GMFRS Chief Fire Officer Dave Russell and NWAS Chief Executive Daren Mochrie during a press conference
GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson, left to right, British Transport Police Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Dave Russel and North West Ambulance Service chief executive Daren Mochrie during a press conference following publication of the inquiry report (James Speakman/PA)

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s (GMFRS) Chief Fire Officer, Dave Russel, appeared to become emotional as he said the service’s response to the bombing will “forever be a matter of deep regret for our service”.

Daren Mochrie, chief executive of North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), said: “On occasions like this, the word sorry has the risk of sounding hollow. Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that while our actions were well-intentioned, we apologise wholeheartedly for our failures.”

Mr Watson continued: “I fully accept the findings of the chair, Sir John Saunders.

“Beyond the selflessness and professionalism of so many of our frontline staff, it is also clear that our co-ordination of the response to this atrocity was poor.

GMFRS Chief Fire Officer Dave Russel
GMFRS Chief Fire Officer Dave Russel (James Speakman/PA)

“Sadly GMPs failings were significant.

“We failed to plan effectively and the execution of that which was planned was simply not good enough.

“Our actions were substantially inadequate and fell short of what the public have every right to expect, and for this, I apologise unreservedly.”

Chief Constable of British Transport Police (BTP), Lucy D’Orsi, said their “preparation and planning was inadequate”, and she was “truly sorry” to all those affected.

She said: “Significant errors were made in the hours leading up to this horrendous attack and the aftermath.

BTP Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi
BTP Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi (James Speakman/PA)

“Our preparation and planning was inadequate.

“On behalf of everyone at British Transport Police, I am truly sorry.”

Mr Russel also apologised to the families and survivors of the attack, and said their failings in the response to the attack “will never happen again”.

He said: “I want to start by wholeheartedly apologising.

“Our response that night was wholly inadequate and totally ineffective and that will forever be a matter of deep regret for our service.

“We let families and the public down in their hour of need and for that I am truly sorry.

NWAS chief executive Daren Mochrie
NWAS chief executive Daren Mochrie (James Speakman/PA)

“I want them to know that I fully accept the inquiry’s criticisms of our service and accept the recommendations in full.

“We were simply too late with our response.

“I want the public to know this will never happen again.”

Asked whether any officers from any emergency services had been disciplined for their actions in the response to the bombing, Mr Russel said: “Individual mistakes were made on that night and witnesses from my service made those concessions.

“What I do believe was, this was a system failure.

“It is that where real improvements lie as opposed to focusing on specific individuals.”

Police at the Manchester Arena following the attack
Police at the Manchester Arena following the attack (Peter Byrne/PA)

Speaking for her force, Ms D’Orsi added: “An investigation remains under way.“It is a detailed investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, I wouldn’t want to say anything here that is likely to undermine that process.”

Also speaking about whether individuals had been disciplined from his force, Mr Watson said: “There were a number of mistakes that were made and mistakes made at individual level.

“But I know that Greater Manchester Police as an organisation cannot absolve itself.”

Mr Watson said the force “putting people in a position” where they potentially had a “lack of training or support” meant that individuals “failed in their duty”.

Asked what emotions the force was feeling after seeing the report, Mr Watson said: “There’s a combination of real sadness, real disappointment.

“An element of being ashamed that we did not do what we set out to do, but also a genuine determination that this never happens again.”

Ms D’Orsi said she walked through the Arena complex last night.

She told reporters: “I felt terribly emotional.

“I felt real anger and hugely disappointed about the delivery on that night.”

Mr Russel added: “I do feel sadness and I do feel ashamed.

“I have invested hundreds and hundreds of hours talking to frontline firefighters and the pain and sadness that they were not there to do what they were trained to do will always be a matter of deep regret for the service.”