Arena Inquiry: Greater Manchester Police didn't 'cover themselves in glory' during training exercises

Credit: PA

Police did not "cover themselves in glory" during multiple terror training exercises before the Manchester Arena bombing, the public inquiry into the attack heard.

John Fletcher, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) group manager at the time of the bombing, was questioned about his experience in dealing with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) during training drills for terror attacks, carried out by the emergency services.

The inquiry, sitting in Manchester, is currently looking at the emergency services' response to the attack and those in charge of preparing for the response to a mass casualty incident.

The hearing was told on Monday that the police were focused on doing their "bit" in isolation, but were not interested in what the other emergency services were doing.

Training exercises dealing with the scenario of a major incident involving a bombing or a marauding terrorist firearms attack, were carried out so that emergency services could work together on incidents.

But GMP had a "lack of understanding" of the capabilities of the other emergency services, the hearing was told.

Only one paramedic made it into the city rooms of the arena in the first 40 minutes after the attack. Credit: PA

In Exercise Winchester Accord, a major drill at the Trafford Centre in May 2016, a GMP inspector had refused to allow North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and GMFRS access, leading to a delay of 90 minutes on that exercise.

And on the night of the Arena bombing, on May 22, 2017, fire crews did not arrive at the scene until two hours after the attack, and only one paramedic was at the City Room, where the bomb was detonated, for the first 40 minutes after the blast.

The inquiry has heard of a lack of communication and some confusion over whether an armed terrorist was on the loose after the bombing, which meant the fire service did not immediately attend the scene.

The inquiry heard this also happened on other occasions.

John Cooper QC, representing a number of the families of those murdered in the attack, said: "The common denominator was the police? Whenever there was issues, it was the police?"

Mr Fletcher replied: "There were issues with the police at times. Yes sir."

Mr Cooper suggested the failure of police to integrate and be involved with other services was a long-standing problem, dating back to 2001, and an exercise called Trump Card where police failed to share information.

He added: "The police have not covered themselves in glory, have they?"

Sir John Saunders, chair of the inquiry, interjected: "I will decide that Mr Cooper. We have heard the evidence."

Mr Cooper asked Mr Fletcher if what happened to the emergency services was a failure of process, leadership or culture.

Mr Fletcher replied: "Process, yes sir. I think it was a failure of process and communications."

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, exploded his rucksack bomb in the foyer of the Arena, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more following an Ariana Grande concert.

The inquiry continues.