Families of the 22 people who died in the 2017 terrorist bombing of a concert at Britain’s Manchester Arena are urging authorities to mount corporate manslaughter prosecutions against the firm responsible for security on the night of the attack and the company that runs the arena.
Their demand came Thursday in the wake of the release of a damning official report into the terror attack that detailed nine missed opportunities to thwart the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British-Libyan citizen.
The report by John Saunders, a former High Court judge, who has led a months-long inquiry into Abedi’s suicide bombing, which also left hundreds injured, found there were grave “systemic failures” ahead of the attack on May 22, 2017. “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,” Saunders said in the report.
Abedi, an Islamic State-inspired attacker, should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack, and if he had been, it is “highly likely” more lives could have been saved, the inquiry found. Saunders concluded “more should have been done” by police and security before Abedi detonated his homemade device.
The report concluded the arena's operator, SMG, security company Showsec and British Transport Police were “principally responsible for the missed opportunities.” Saunders also noted “failings by individuals.” The report has paved the way for substantial civil damages claims to be filed by the families of the dead and those who were injured, according to lawyers acting for the families.
Speaking after the publication of the 204-page report examining events leading up to the bombing, Paul Hett, the father of 30-year-old victim Martyn Hett, said the families were failed by the authorities “on every level.” He added, “This atrocity should and could have been prevented, and 22 people would not have lost their lives.”
The mother of 32-year-old victim Philip Tron, June Tron, told reporters it was “very hard to accept and understand” the series of security failures and missed opportunities to stop Salman Abedi from detonating his device.
“We hope that, as a result of this inquiry, many lessons are learnt and that laws are introduced and changes made quickly to ensure people can go to a concert or a big public event in confidence that they have the best possible protection,” she added.
“Prosecutions should be commenced without further delay,” lawyer Elkan Abrahamson, who represents five of the victims’ families, said in a statement to the press.
Among the “most striking missed opportunity,” the report found, was when a concert-goer, Christopher Wild, raised his suspicions about Abedi minutes before he detonated his device, but no action was taken and a security guard “fobbed off” the alert.
“Christopher Wild’s behavior was very responsible. He stated that he formed the view that Abedi might ‘let a bomb off’. This was sadly all too prescient and makes all the more distressing the fact that no effective steps were taken as a result of the efforts made by Christopher Wild,” Saunders said in the report, which is one of three to be delivered on errors ahead of the attack.
The inquiry also was critical of two police officers who, despite being on duty, took a two-hour break to go for a kebab five miles away from the arena. The British Transport Police (BTP), the force responsible for patrolling the concert, was accused by Saunders of failing “to give adequate consideration to the threat of terrorism” despite Britain being under a “severe” terrorism warning at the time.
Abedi was wearing a large backpack containing his shrapnel-filled bomb and was able to hide for more than an hour in a room inside the arena complex. The inquiry viewed security video of the suicide bomber as he entered the arena “bent over” and was “struggling to walk” because of the 32-kilogram weight of the bag containing the bomb.
He detonated the device as thousands of concertgoers, many of them children and teenagers, were leaving the auditorium.
SMG, the arena’s operator, failed to “instruct an expert in security” to conduct a comprehensive review of security arrangements for the event, according to Saunders. Its specific risk assessment also was “inadequate” and “descended into a box-ticking exercise.”
Showsec, the security firm hired by SMG, also came in for scathing criticism, over the absence of patrols and inadequate training for security staff. Showsec is owned by Live Nation, the world’s biggest music promotion company.
Future reports into the bombing will examine whether Britain’s security services and counterterrorism police should have mounted surveillance on the Manchester-born Abedi, who had just returned to Britain before the bombing after a month-long stay in Tripoli, ostensibly to visit family.