Arena Bombing - Calls for Security Reviews

18 April 2019, 06:06 | Updated: 18 April 2019, 06:33

Tributes to the 22 killed in the Manchester Arena

The Mayor of Greater Manchester supported calls from victims' families to see security enhances as he published the update, which followed a report by former head of the Civil Service Lord Bob Kerslake that assessed the emergency response to the 2017 attack.

The update revealed Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) had undertaken a "full root and branch review" after concerns over its delayed response to the emergency and media regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) was compiling guidance on reporting major incidents after some bereaved relatives said they felt "hounded" by the press in the aftermath.

Twenty-two people died when suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, detonated a device in the foyer of the arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 2017.

In Mr Burnham's progress report, published on Thursday, he supported calls made by Figen Murray, the mother of victim Martyn Hett, 29, for the introduction of "Martyn's Law" - which would make metal detectors and bag searches obligatory for big public venues.

He said: "I believe there is a clear case for a thorough review of security measures at major sporting and entertainment event venues to establish clearly understood mandatory standards and I call on the Government to initiate one.

"We need to have clear minimum and mandatory standards at all venues so there is clarity for operators and confidence for the public."

The Kerslake Report, published last March, found firefighters, some who heard the bomb go off and were trained in first-aid and terror scenarios with specialist equipment, did not get permission to go to the scene until hours after the suicide bombing, despite the nearest station being just half a mile away.

Following concerns raised by the mayor, GMFRS launched a "root and branch" review and proposals for change, including a refocus on frontline delivery, were released for public consultation last month, Mr Burnham said in the update.

The mayor called on press regulator IPSO to keep issues raised in the Kerslake Report under review after the watchdog concluded the provisions of its Editor's Code were adequate to cover incidents such as the arena attack.

It found examples of shocking behaviour attributed to journalists and photographers, that were given by contributors to the report, were breaches of the existing code.

The report had recommended the regulator consider developing a new code specifically to cover such events.

Instead, IPSO developed an action plan which included proactively publicising its role and improving or creating training.

It is also compiling guidance for editors and journalists on reporting major incidents, which is expected to be published later this year.

Mr Burnham said: "I welcome the steps taken by IPSO and am grateful for their acknowledgement of the issues raised by the Kerslake Report.

"However, I remain unconvinced that they go far enough to prevent a repeat of what happened and would call on them to keep this issue under review.

"As I have said before, there was much responsible reporting, particularly from our regional media, but it is clear that the industry as a whole still has issues to address."

The update also noted progress within Greater Manchester Police, which has enhanced senior officer capacity and resilience during major incidents, and mental health trusts throughout the region, which developed a joint response plan to improve provision of services for those who experience trauma.

Beverley Hughes, deputy mayor for policing and crime, added: "This important update shows encouraging progress in all areas. Clearly, there is still much work to do but that's only to be expected due to the thoroughness of the report."

In response, Security Minister Ben Wallace said the Government is determined to regularly review security measures "as our utmost priority is protecting our citizens".

He added: "Last June we published a strengthened version of the UK's comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, Contest, which reflects the findings of a fundamental review of all aspects of counter-terrorism, to ensure we have the best response to the heightened threat in coming years.

"I am grateful for the work Andy (Burnham) has done in helping shape and improve the people of Manchester's security.

"The Government has already put many of the lessons learnt from 2017 in place and we are open to suggestions on what more we can all do to protect this country from terrorism."