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The Manchester Arena Inquiry has now concluded. The closure notice from the Inquiry Chairman is available here.

Volume Three: Radicalisation and Preventability
Volume Three: Radicalisation and Preventability (20pt version)

Previous investigations

The Inquiry is not the first investigation into the question of whether the Security Service and/or Counter Terrorism Policing could have prevented the Attack. Both the Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing carried out their own Post‑Attack Reviews. These were conducted in 2017.

David Anderson QC (now Lord Anderson KC) conducted an independent assessment of the Post‑Attack Reviews and produced his report in December 2017.4 In his summary, Lord Anderson stated:

“The [Post-Attack] review team concluded that the investigative actions taken in relation to [SA] in 2014 and the subsequent decision to close him as an SOI [Subject of Interest] were sound on the basis of the information available at the time. It identified several further examples of good practice.
Detailed consideration was given to the way in which MI5 [the Security Service] in early 2017 handled the intelligence, whose true significance was not appreciated at that time. On this, the review team concluded in summary that:
  • the decision not to re-open an investigation was ‘finely balanced’ and ‘understandable’ in the circumstances;
  • there is a degree of inherent uncertainty in speculating as to what might or might not have been discovered if an investigation had been opened on the basis of the new intelligence; but that
  • on the clear balance of professional opinion a successful pre-emption of the gathering plot would have been unlikely.
It was also noted that despite his status as a closed SOI an opportunity was missed by MI5 to place [SA] on ports action following his travel to Libya in April 2017. This would have triggered an alert when he returned shortly before the attack, which could have enabled him to be questioned and searched at the airport by CT [Counter Terrorism] Policing under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000.
A number of learning points and recommendations were identified. These concerned the handling of closed SOIs, triaging intelligence, and the leads processing system, handling potential high-risk intelligence with indeterminate terrorist threat, key investigative judgements, the use of travel notification/monitoring tools, record keeping (including considerations of automation) and the process surrounding certain types of information gathering.”5

Lord Anderson concluded:
“[I]t is conceivable that the Manchester attack … might have been averted had the cards fallen differently.”6

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament also investigated what had happened. It published a report on 22nd November 2018 entitled The 2017 Attacks: What Needs to Change?.7 The Committee relied, as it had to, on the Post‑Attack Reviews, along with the evidence of senior members of the Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing. These people were not the original decision‑makers on the ground.

The conclusions of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament in relation to SA included:
“[SA] should have been subject to travel monitoring and/or travel restrictions. ***, MI5 [the Security Service] should have put alternative measures in place to alert them to [SA]’s movements.
The Committee notes MI5’s assessment that had [SA] been placed under travel restrictions, there still may not have been sufficient time to identify or act on his attack planning. It would, nevertheless, have provided more of an opportunity.”8