In recent testimony at the ongoing public inquiry being held in the United Kingdom regarding the Manchester Arena bombing of 2017, witness Christopher Wild explained how he thought the bomber, Salman Abedi, looked like a terrorist given his behavior and the heavy rucksack he was carrying. Meanwhile, security guard Mohammed Agha told the inquiry he also saw Abedi but did not have those same strong suspicions, saying the idea Abedi could be a bomber crossed his mind but “was not fully in my head.”
There can be no doubt this was a tragedy that could have been prevented. The 22 victims who lost their lives attending that night’s concert could have been held inside the venue until Abedi had been confronted and dealt with. Only now are the families of the deceased and other victims seriously wounded by the bombing learning of these instances and the potential opportunities to prevent the tragedy from happening.
“Dr. Marcus Pleyer, president of the Financial Action Task Force, said, ’Training is an investment in our future.’ Perhaps had Mohammed Agha been properly trained, 22 people would still be alive today, looking forward to their own futures.”
Agha, who was 19 years old at the time and being paid minimum wage, had attained a Security Industry Authority license 12 months earlier. On the witness stand he was questioned about his training, because evidence had been produced that confirmed Agha had undertaken an online course titled “An Introduction to Counter-Terrorism.” The course consisted of 11 modules including two videos, the first of which had a duration of 12 minutes and was named “Eyes Wide Open: Acting on Suspicious Behaviour.” The second was a 20-minute film based upon Operation Fairway and a plot to bomb a shopping center.
In total, Agha spent eight minutes on the entire training course; consequently, he was accused of merely clicking through the modules and not watching videos. Counsel for the inquiry accused Agha of cheating—he rejected the accusation, and, notwithstanding the evidence and records, he denied having undertaken any of the training.
What did Agha fail to learn from the training? What actions could have taken had he completed the course? Moreover, questions need to be asked about how Security Industry Authority licenses are given out and how the successful completion of such important and relevant training is supervised or monitored by employers. It is likely significant civil litigation will follow against those parties who were paid to protect the concertgoers and failed to do so, in part because the persons deployed to provide the protection were not properly or adequately trained.
All of the above needs to be considered by compliance professionals engaged in the provision and monitoring of staff training. It is simply not enough to provide access to training—it is necessary to ensure staff undertake and successfully complete all modules. The failures at the Manchester Arena provide an extreme lesson regarding the importance and relevance of training, as well as the tragic outcomes that can arise when training fails, is not provided, or is disregarded and not confirmed.
The inquiry has also confirmed training needs to be relevant and up to date. Those who continue to play the same video to staff every year are not providing training—they are engaging in a charade that can materialize in negative outcomes. Well-trained staff make a difference: They prevent accidents, tragedies, and failures. Staff are often the first and simultaneously the strongest defense against parties who seek to attack, defraud, or undermine firms.
Better training generates better outcomes; money spent upon training is money well spent. Only last week, Dr. Marcus Pleyer, president of the Financial Action Task Force, said, “Training is an investment in our future.” Perhaps had Agha been properly trained, 22 people would still be alive today, looking forward to their own futures.