Manchester attack inquiry: MI5 accused of 'obsessive focus on secrecy'

MI5 dangers undermining the arrogance of the households bereaved via the Manchester Area terror assault via asking to offer proof anonymously and from in the back of a curtain, a public inquiry has heard.

Attorneys representing sufferers’ households from the 2017 bombing, which killed 22 and injured masses, complained that the company had an “obsessive center of attention on secrecy” and referred to as at the inquiry chair to insist that its proof be heard overtly.

Its testimony is broadly observed to be essential to the inquiry, which heard previous this week that the suicide bomber Salman Abedi used to be in brief an MI5 matter of pastime in 2014 – and used to be related to six others within the two years following.

MI5 has presented to position up a unmarried witness, a senior officer recognized best as Witness J, all through the inquiry’s public, open lawsuits. However the company needs him to stay nameless and provides proof from in the back of a display screen visual best to the pass judgement on.

Pete Weatherby QC, representing one of the bereaved households, mentioned: “Permitting him to stay a thriller within the shadows in those hearings does shake the arrogance of the households and surely the broader group, together with many different survivors.”

The legal professional used to be talking at a initial listening to of the general public inquiry, which is figuring out how the principle inquiry into the fatal assault on the finish of a packed Ariana Grande live performance will continue within the coming months.

A 2d legal professional representing every other sufferers’ team, John Cooper QC, mentioned the proof of MI5 used to be “completely an important” and that “households will have to see Witness J, will have to see his manner, assess him accurately” when giving proof.

At earlier inquiries following an apprehension assault, such because the London Bridge inquests, the Safety Carrier has submit a senior officer to offer proof on behalf of the entire company anonymously and from in the back of a curtain or display screen, partly reflecting the truth that MI5 officials in large part perform in secret.

Neil Sheldon QC, representing MI5, mentioned the secret agent company best ever showed the id of its director normal. It used to be no longer conceivable or fascinating to have him give proof, as a result of that may divert him from “the duties and tasks that he has, in appreciate of nationwide safety”, the legal professional added.

MI5 additionally needs to be given six weeks’ advance realize of questions for Witness J from the important suggest to the inquiry and 4 weeks’ realize of questions from sufferers’ households – some distance longer than the standard 14 days and 7 days respectively.

The secret agent company argues that it wishes the overtime to offer complete solutions to the inquiry that don’t compromise the safety of its operations, however the call for used to be once more antagonistic via attorneys for the sufferers’ households.

The time sought “gave succour to a suspicion”, Cooper mentioned, that “there’s a crafting workout undertaken via MI5 that won’t pass down really well with the households” as he wondered why the additional realize used to be required in any respect.

A compromise used to be additionally put ahead via Paul Greaney, the suggest to the inquiry. He advised Witness J may give proof the place he used to be observed in individual via the pass judgement on, Sir John Saunders, plus one legal professional representing sufferers’ households – even if the barristers provide mentioned that during that case, every of the sufferer teams will have to be represented.

It’s for Saunders to make a decision learn how to maintain MI5’s public proof. He’s anticipated to make public his conclusions at a later date.

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