Terror response report 'humbling', police chief tells Manchester Arena inquiry

By Alex Mistlin

A report on four terror attacks in 2017 made 103 recommendations about how officials could have better performed, the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing has heard.

Its publication was a “humbling moment”, the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, said in evidence on Tuesday. The inquiry heard that nearly 90% of the review’s recommendations had since been delivered.

On day 58, the inquiry heard from just one witness, Basu, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for UK counter-terror policing.

He was senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing on the night of the Arena bombing and it was his job to assume national strategic command of the events and the investigative response. He declared the incident a terrorist attack at 12.56am on 23 May 2017 and effectively took responsibility for national strategic command from this point.

Basu told the inquiry that, after the attack, the then prime minister, Theresa May, told him “you need to break the momentum” of terror attacks in the UK.

Although an operational improvement review made 103 recommendations for how UK counter-terror operations could be improved, Basu said he still felt “we have the best counter-terrorism machine in the world in this country”.

Basu began by expressing his “deepest sympathies” on behalf of Britain’s counter-terrorism network. “This is a network designed to stop there being victims and I have met far too many in my career. I know the terrible burden that not just the event but having to sit through inquests, criminal trials and inquiries has on those people, I know how brutal it is.”

The inquiry heard he was not responsible for the immediate policing response to the attack which fell to Greater Manchester police’s gold strategic commander, the assistant chief constable Debbie Ford.

Basu told the inquiry that it was only right that the local force is responsible for coordinating the police response, saying: “It would be wrong and idiotic for someone in London to try and make decisions about what was unfolding in Manchester.”

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.