Ex-police chief denies trying to mislead review after Arena bombing

The chief constable at the time of the Manchester Arena bombing has denied trying to mislead an independent review into the emergency response six months later.

The public inquiry into the May 2017 attack has heard of significant multi-agency communication failures as fire crews took more than two hours to arrive and only three paramedics entered the City Room foyer where the explosion was detonated.

The other blue light services could not get through to the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) force duty officer, the initial commander of the incident, as members of the public, police officers and Arena staff had to resort to using makeshift stretchers to move casualties, the hearing has been told.

Ian Hopkins said he was not aware of such inter-agency failures when Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) response to the incident was outlined in a letter to Lord Kerslake who led a review ordered by the region’s mayor, Andy Burnham, which was eventually published in March 2018.

Earlier this month, when giving evidence, the current Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling publicly apologised for failings by GMP “principally failing to carry out the basic functions of Jesip (Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles) in the early stages of the incident which impacted considerably on joint working.”

Pete Weatherby QC, representing the bereaved families, suggested to Mr Hopkins that in his signed letter to Lord Kerslake on November 8 2017 he was giving a “rose-tainted description of a smoothly run response without any problems”.

Mr Hopkins said: “I think this was trying to give a flavour to Lord Kerslake of what took place on the night, the scale of what was happening, and the fact that the review was there to look in more detail at it. I don’t think for one minute anybody was trying to put a rose-tinted taint on it.”

Mr Weatherby said: “It doesn’t raise any of the issues that we’ve been discussing about the failures of Jesip, does it?”

Mr Hopkins replied: “That’s because I don’t think we were aware of the failures to the degree that we are now. Nobody at that point was talking about that level of failure.”

Mr Weatherby said: “Six months on, GMP had conducted debriefs, you’d set up a team under Mr Pilling, senior officers, a legal team, and here we are with a significant review set up by the mayor, and quite frankly, objectively, a misleading picture is being painted here, isn’t it?”

Mr Hopkins said: “I think, looking at it now, some nearly four years on, I can see the point that you’re making. But that was clearly never anybody’s intention. We engaged with the Kerslake Review to learn the lessons, to find out what had happened, but our view was that whilst far from perfect, it had been a good response, with many, many elements working very well.”

Mr Hopkins stepped down from his post in December after Mr Burnham asked him to resign in the wake of the scathing report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which revealed the force had failed to properly record 80,000 crimes.

The inquiry into the terror attack which killed 22 people and injured hundreds others continues.

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