On 22nd May 2018, the BBC broadcast a documentary entitled Manchester: The Night of the Bomb. In the course of the programme, interviews given by emergency responders from BTP and NWAS setting out their account of events of the night of the Attack were played. The transcripts of the interviews were provided to the Inquiry. They formed the basis of some of the questions asked during the oral evidence hearings. I am grateful for the co‑operation I received from the BBC in relation to those transcripts being made available.
Representatives of the bereaved families raised issues about Manchester: The Night of the Bomb. Three issues in particular were raised. First, there was concern about “the inclusion … of graphic footage of the scene of the attack, from which [bereaved families] were able to identify their loved ones as they lay dead, and about which they received no warning”. Second, there was concern about whether it was appropriate for any emergency responder to have assisted in the making of the documentary at all. Third, there was a concern about the timing of the participation: it occurred when it was known that an investigation into the adequacy of the response would occur.
ACC O’Callaghan, on behalf of BTP, apologised for the involvement of BTP in this documentary.
In relation to the second concern, it was submitted to me on behalf of the bereaved families: “The lesson to be learned is that greater communication with bereaved families is necessary when consideration is given to participation in documentaries and other media coverage following fatal incidents.”
Freedom of the press is an essential part of our democracy. It is not appropriate for me to seek to define the circumstances in which the media should interview emergency service personnel. Nor is it for me to suggest standards in relation to what material can or cannot be included. The Independent Press Standards Organisation provides some general guidance. However, having seen firsthand the upset this particular documentary caused, it is clear that consultation with bereaved families in fatality cases is capable of reducing any distress which may be caused.