The Coroner who is due to chair the inquest into the deaths of 22 people who died in the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena has said the inquest should form a public inquiry.

Sir John Saunders has written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel to confirm he had decided a statutory public inquiry was necessary.

Earlier this month, Sir John granted applications by the Home Office and police for public interest immunity (PII) on the grounds of protecting national security.

He ruled that disclosing some evidence in public would “assist terrorists” in carrying out similar atrocities and said his provisional view was that an “adequate investigation” could not be conducted within the frameworks of the inquests.

Setting up a public inquiry would mean that such evidence could be heard in private session without the families of the victims and their lawyers being present.

“I have reached the view that, in light of my ruling on the PII applications made by yourself and the counter-terrorism police that such an investigation cannot now be achieved through the inquests and must be done by establishing a statutory public inquiry.

“No interested persons involved in the inquests, including the families, have made submissions objecting to this proposed course.

“I would therefore invite you to establish that statutory public inquiry as a matter of urgency to allow for the hearings scheduled to begin in April 2020 to take place as a public inquiry.”

He continued: “It is of paramount importance that a procedural issue, such as the request for a public inquiry in place of the inquests, must not be permitted to otherwise delay the start date for hearings which will allow families to understand the circumstances in which their family members were killed and to ensure that the circumstances of the arena attack are fully investigated.”

The retired High Court judge added that arrangements are being made for the hearings to be held in a specially constructed room within Manchester Magistrates’ Court and any delay to the start date would have “a wider financial and administrative impact”.

Sir John reassured families attending the hearing in Manchester on September 6 that public interest immunity “will not be used as a device for covering up responsibility” and that he will do his “very best” to ensure that does not happen.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here