Manchester attacks could have been avoided had MI5 handled the information differently

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An independent report into the Manchester Arena bombing has suggested that the attacks could have been avoided had the “cards fell differently”.

Salman Abedi was a “closed subject of interest” at the time of the attack and not under investigation at the time, despite MI5 receiving intelligence on him in early 2017.

Amber Rudd made the announcements in the House of Commons this afternoon following the report by David Anderson.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd makes a statement in the House of Commons, London, on recent terrorist attacks.

The report featured over 120 recommendations in changes to security in the UK and it is thought that these will be piloted across Greater Manchester Police.

Rudd went on to say that “We must learn all we can” from the attacks and inquests will now go ahead in Manchester, as well as ongoing police investigations.

The Home Secretary also said that it was important that police forces are properly funded to carry out work to prevent attacks but did not say that more funding would be available.

Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham has released a statement on the findings saying:

This is a thorough and honest review. I would like to thank David Anderson QC and all of those in the security and police services who have contributed to it.

There is no escaping the fact that the report will be a difficult read for everyone in Manchester and most particularly for the bereaved families and those still recovering from the attack. We think of them today and recommit to doing everything we can to support them going forward.

I also recognise that today will be difficult for all those in the police and security services who we ask to take the most difficult and finely-balanced judgements on our behalf. They work day in, day out to keep us safe, have foiled 20 attacks over the last four years and will no doubt feel real anguish when occasionally they are unable to stop an attack from happening.

The memorial in St Ann’s Square back in May 2017

It is clear that this report is the result of a lot of soul-searching on their behalf. I accept its conclusion that there is no way of knowing whether the Manchester attack could have been stopped. But it is clear that things could – and perhaps should – have been done differently and wrong judgements made. There are lessons to be learned and I think the people of Greater Manchester will appreciate the honesty in which they are being acknowledged.

It is important to note the conclusion that the authorities got a lot right in respect of the Manchester attack. The fact that they were closing in on the perpetrator should reassure the public of the professionalism of our police and security services and the systems that they use. It would be much more worrying if nothing had been known about him.

But clearly systems can be improved further still and I know that people affected by the Manchester attack will want to know that changes are being made to prevent others going through what they are going through. In the aftermath of the Manchester attack, I called for consideration of two-way sharing on intelligence between national counter-terrorism and local police and I am pleased to see that recommendation in this report. This is a significant development which is right given that the nature of the terror threat has changed and issues as likely now to come from lone operators as sophisticated networks.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s suggestion of a pilot in Greater Manchester and we will work constructively with the Government on that. This fits well with our aim of asking local communities to do more to tackle extremism and the Commission we have established to that end.

But, while welcoming the recognition that neighbourhood policing has an important role to play in counter-terrorism operations, it inescapably follows that real-terms cuts to the police budget must stop and increases given to reflect the greater workload and growing threat that we face. As it makes its final decisions on the police budget for next year, the Government must give Greater Manchester police a budget that will allow it to enhance neighbourhood policing in all our communities.

While Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said that they welcome the report.

The full report is expected to be released later on today and will feature the full extent of the findings.

 

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