Manchester Arena attack: GMP accused of jeopardising inquiry start

Manchester bombing victims Image copyright Various
Image caption Twenty-two people were killed in the attack on 22 May 2017

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has been accused of jeopardising the start of the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bomb attack.

The force was criticised for missing a deadline to provide statements from officers in command on the night of the May 2017 blast in which 22 people died.

"It has been a huge undertaking for GMP involving an enormous amount of material," said the force's barrister.

The inquiry is due to begin on 6 April 2020.

Twenty two people were killed and hundreds injured when a device was detonated at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May, 2017.

The victims' inquests were turned into a public inquiry in October so that secret evidence could be heard behind closed doors.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, told the hearing there was a second problem with "gaps" in the 550 hours of radio transmission recordings from the night of the bombing provided by GMP.

Twelve organisations have been asked to provide written statements to the inquiry's legal team.

GMP was said to be the only one not to have met the deadline.

'Not good enough'

Peter Weatherby QC, who is representing some of the bereaved families, said that they desperately wanted to have confidence in GMP but "the sorry tale is frankly not good enough".

The chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Saunders, warned the police that if there was a delay to the inquiry there would be "extremely extensive public criticism made of GMP".

He said it was "simply not fair to the families or to Manchester in general" but added "no comments should be made about lack of candour until we see the statements."

Fiona Barton QC, representing GMP, apologised to families in court for the delay.

One relative was heard to say that he did not accept the apology.

"This is not a piece of work GMP has sat on," she said.

"It's been a huge undertaking for GMP involving an enormous amount of material. GMP has done its best."

Ms Barton explained the statements had been delayed because the force had hundreds of officers on duty at the attack, and it had taken time to identify which ones should provide the evidence.

She said they were now in the process of being provided.

In relation to the missing radio recordings she explained that the force was undergoing a system update at the time of the bombing, and work was under way to find the audio.

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