10:09 GMT21 September 2020
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    The public inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack has begun and its lead counsel intends to leave "no stone unturned".

    Dr David Lowe, a senior research fellow at Leeds Beckett University Law School, who researches terrorism and security as well as policing and criminal law, spoke to us about counter-terrorism policy in the UK.

    Sputnik: Do you think the inquiry will have any implications for security policy in the future in the UK?

    Dr David Lowe: It's highly likely that there will, because it's got a wider remit than the Kerslake review that was carried out by Lord Kerslake shortly after the arena bombing in 2017. And in the Kerslake review, it looked more at the emergency services response and issues around wellbeing and so on.

    But of course, there was the Anderson review that looked into the London and Manchester bombings in 2017. Of course, that covered issues related to the security services and intelligence. I think, looking at what came out, there is no doubt that this public inquiry will go into more depth on this. We know that Salman Abedi was a subject of interest, but he was a closed subject of interest, because there was insufficient intelligence, really, to directly link him. But there was some information coming in, because if you remember he and his brother returned to Libya, in April 2017, but Salman Abedi came back later that month.

    With that travel, the Anderson review said an opportunity was missed there by MI5 for him to be stopped at the port by the police when he arrived in the UK. So that may crop up again, that issue and look at what to do, certainly with close subjects of interest - because we see this with a few attacks, where the attacker has been a subject of interest for intelligence systems. So I think that's one issue that will apply, maybe directly, and we'll see what the public inquiry says on that.

    Sputnik: This inquiry will provide an opportunity for victims to speak about their experience; how important do you think it is for victims to be allowed to testify?

    Dr David Lowe: I think it's really useful. If we look at public inquiries into major incidents in the past, I think it allows them to have the opportunity in a public arena to explain what happened to them, how it impacted on them, how their lives have been since then. And in some ways, I know this might sound strange, but it can be quite cathartic, it can really assist victims. Because when we talk about victims, yes, there were 22 people who died and numbers who were physically injured. 

    What we can't forget is those who suffered mentally afterwards, you know, they may have had post-traumatic stress disorder, they may have had depression and different mental illnesses. And sometimes I think this can be overlooked and I think where you look at the victims and families of those who died, in particular, it gives them the opportunity to have their say in a public arena that will be recorded and their accounts will be considered by Sir John Saunders as he chairs his public inquiry.

    Sputnik: Do you think counter-terrorism or security measures have been improved since 2017?

    Dr David Lowe: I think without doubt and I think we have certainly seen things like response rates improve. If we look at, for example, the Fishmonger's Hall/London Bridge attack in November last year and Streatham High Street, certainly the Fishmonger's Hall attack, because that individual was not on constant surveillance. You look at the response by the Metropolitan Police there, it was very swift and very effective. 

    Certainly response rates looking at, I think, also continually - I mean, it doesn't matter what events have happened, there's always a debrief. And it's not just looking at what didn't go too well, it looks at what did go well; but there's always that issue of sharing intelligence, and certainly in the UK since the introduction of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) from the 2005 attack, the intelligence sharing between our security service and the police has been greatly enhanced. It's always worth, in any incident, having a full debrief, what went well and what didn't go well, and always constantly look to improve any procedures, protocols, etc. I think that is absolutely essential and there's always room for improvement, I suppose.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    counter-terrorism, terror attack, security service, Manchester Arena, 2017 Manchester Arena bombing
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