The Manchester Arena Inquiry is an independent public inquiry, established on 22 October 2019 by the Home Secretary. The purpose of the Manchester Arena Inquiry is to explore the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the terror attack on 22 May 2017.
Sir John Saunders, having acted as the Coroner responsible for conducting the Manchester Arena Inquests, was appointed to Chair the Inquiry on 22 October 2019. Sir John, a former High Court judge, will be responsible for discharging the Inquiry’s terms of reference and supervising its progress. He will, when the Inquiry concludes, publish a report detailing his findings, as well as any possible recommendations. He cannot make any findings of civil or criminal liability.
In September 2019 Sir John Saunders requested that the Home Secretary convert the Manchester Arena Inquests into a public inquiry. This request followed a number of pre-inquest hearings, culminating with a Public Interest Immunity Hearing on 6 September 2019. On 13 September the Coroner issued a ruling that upheld the substantive Public Interest Immunity applications. It was following this ruling that the Coroner, Sir John Saunders, now Chairman of the Inquiry, requested that the Inquests become a public Inquiry.
In his letter to the Home Secretary, Sir John Saunders set out the following, “It is of vital public importance that an Article 2 compliant investigation that is full, fair and fearless is conducted into the terrible events that resulted in the deaths of the 22 people killed at the Arena. I have reached the view that, in light of my ruling on the Public Interest Immunity applications […] such an investigation cannot now be achieved through the inquests and must be done by establishing a statutory public inquiry”.
More information of the Inquests, the hearings that took place during 2018 and 2019 and documents relating to the Inquests process can be found here.
A public inquiry is set up to look at a matter of public concern and is fully independent of Government. Unlike proceedings in court, an inquiry is not adversarial. It is an inquisitorial process instead. The focus of an inquiry is first to determine exactly what happened and then to work out what must be done to prevent it from happening again. Though inquiries cannot determine criminal or civil liability, they can highlight where failings have occurred.
A Public Inquiry is set up to look at a matter of public concern.
The way an Inquiry is run may look and feel like a court case – a judge, representatives asking questions, bundles of evidence – but there is an important difference.
Courts often deal with cases by trials, involving one or more parties against another. There is usually a winner and a loser. For that reason it is called an adversarial process. An Inquiry is different to a court case. It is inquisitorial instead: all parties are there to examine the facts and to find out exactly what happened. An Inquiry will also make recommendations to try to prevent what has gone wrong from happening again. It therefore serves a wider public interest.
How do Statutory Inquiries work?
- Statutory public inquiries run according to the rules in the Inquiries Act 2005 and Inquiry Rules 2006.
- Inquiries are always established by a Government minister but once established are independent of Government. Inquiries must be fearless in looking for the truth and make findings of fact. If appropriate these will include identifying those at fault; however, the law does not allow an Inquiry to make findings of criminal or civil liability.
- Inquiries always have a chairman, often a judge, appointed by the minister. Any person or organisation can be made to produce relevant documents. It is a criminal offence to intentionally withhold a document required by the Inquiry or deliberately to obstruct its work. Inquiries enable people with a particular interest to be Core Participants. They have certain rights.
- All relevant evidence will be shared in advance of hearings with Core Participants.
- Core Participants can suggest lines of questioning that should be pursued by the Inquiry.
- Inquiries hold hearings and any person or relevant organisation can be called as a witness to give evidence.
- Witnesses can be asked questions by Counsel to the Inquiry or by legal representatives of Core Participants (with the Chairman’s permission).
- Inquiries are public. In general, the Chairman must take reasonable steps to ensure that the public can watch hearings and view the record of evidence. The Chairman must not depart from that rule unless there is very good reason.
- Inquiries must produce a written report with their findings and recommendations. Under the Act, this must be made public.
The Manchester Arena Inquiry has been established under the Inquiries Act 2005. Other inquiries established under the Act include the Infected Blood Inquiry, the Leveson Inquiry and the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry as well as the E Coli Inquiry in Wales and the ICL Inquiry held jointly between Scotland and England. Such inquiries are essentially inquisitorial in nature and, subject to the legislative provisions, their procedure and conduct are matters for the Chairman to decide. As such, no two inquiries are the same. The Inquiry is charged with carrying out an investigation within its terms of reference.
The Manchester Arena Inquiry was established by the Home Secretary on 22 October 2019. The Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir John Saunders, has committed to hearings starting in April 2020. A series of preliminary hearings will take place before this date. Further information on these hearing will be shared with core participants and posted on the website in due course. The next preliminary hearing will be held on 28 January 2020.
Once the Inquiry is underway open hearings will be held at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, Crown Square, Greater Manchester, M60 1PR.
On each day of hearings, the transcript and evidence considered will be published on the Inquiry’s website unless any contrary order or restriction order made under section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 is in place. Directions, submissions and rulings will also be made available, when appropriate.
Yes, as with all public inquiries hearings will be open to the public and media unless a restriction order is in place. Space in the hearing rooms may be limited and priority will always be given to Core Participants. Consideration will be given to making arrangements to provide greater media and public access to proceedings through the provision of a live-stream of open sessions. More information about the protocol for restriction order applications can be found here.
Under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 core participants can include individuals, organisations or entities with a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates. Those designated as core participants, by the Chairman, may participate in the Inquiry in a number of ways including making an opening and closing statement at certain hearings and suggesting lines of questioning to be pursued by Counsel to the Inquiry.
A witness is someone who has evidence relating to the matters being investigated by the Inquiry. This could be as a witness to an event or through the records they hold (videos, photographs or documents). Witnesses may be called to give evidence in the form of a written or oral statement. An individual or organisation can be both a core participant and a witness.
Under the Inquiries Act 2005, the Chairman has a wide range of powers, including the power to compel the production of documents and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath. The Chairman can call any relevant person, or organisation, to give evidence to the Inquiry. Witnesses can be asked questioned by Counsel to the Inquiry or by legal representatives of core participants (with the Chairman’s permission).
An expert witness is a person who is called to give an opinion on matters which call for expert skill and knowledge. Their role is to provide technical analysis and expertise in order to help the Inquiry deliver its Terms of Reference. The Chairman will appoint a range of experts to prepare reports. These reports will be disclosed to all core participants, published on the Inquiry website and presented during hearings.
The Chairman must produce a written report, detailing his findings and recommendations. Under the Inquiries Act 2005, this must be made public.
The Inquiry is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, but will endeavour to conduct proceedings as openly and transparently as possible. As part of this, as much information as possible will be provided on this website.
The Resilience Hub was set up in response to the Manchester Arena Attack in 2017 to co-ordinate care and support for thousands of children, young people and adults whose mental health and/or emotional wellbeing was affected. Their staff also supported people affected by the attack in Manchester on 31 January 2018 (New Year’s Eve). The Resilience Hub provides a central point for mental health advice and support. Where one-to-one therapy is needed, clinicians work with other organisations across the country to help you receive care from services close to where you live. The Resilience Hub is based in Greater Manchester but support everyone who was affected, wherever you may live.
The Hub is for:
- Everyone who has been directly affected by the incident
- Family members who have been affected
- Professionals who have been affected
- Professionals seeking clinical advice about their service users
More information on the services available can be found on the Resilience Hub’s website at: https://www.penninecare.nhs.uk/mcrhub