Conspiracy theory which suggests Manchester Arena attack was staged is 'absurd and fantastical', judge rules

A claim that the Manchester Arena terror attack was staged by government agencies and did not kill or injure anyone is "absurd and fantastical", a High Court judge has ruled.

Martin Hibbert and his daughter, Eve, who were both left with life-changing injuries after the bombing that left 22 people dead in 2017, are bringing legal action against Richard Hall, who has been spreading the conspiracy theory.

Mr Hibbert was left with a spinal injury and Eve, who was 14 at the time of the attack, has severe brain damage as a result of the explosion that took place as crowds left the Ariana Grande concert.

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi, 22, detonated a home-made, shrapnel-packed device in the Manchester Arena - with hundreds injured as the blast dispersed thousands of nuts and bolts.

However, Mr Hall has claimed the terror attack was faked.

He is said to have made money from selling books and DVDs outlining various conspiracy theories he promotes, as well as speaking at events and posting videos online. His videos are reported to have had more than 16 million views on YouTube.

He has been accused of visiting the homes and workplaces of those injured in the bombing - including Miss Hibbert's home - and recording footage of them.

A BBC investigation in 2022 found that he shared a video demonstrating that he set up a camera to film Eve, who is disabled and in a wheelchair since the attack, to see whether she could actually walk.

Mr Hibbert and Eve are bringing legal action against Mr Hall for harassment, misuse of private information and data protection.

At a hearing in London last month, the father and his daughter made a bid for summary judgment - a legal step to decide parts of the case without a trial - on several parts of the case's background.

This included rulings on whether 22 people did die during the attack, and whether the Hibberts' injuries were caused by the bombing.

Mr Hall, representing himself, argued that there is no "first-hand tangible evidence", like CCTV footage or photographs of injuries, to prove the father and daughter were at the arena or were hurt as a result of the blast.

He showed the court a series of images, which he claimed reveals survivors are lying about their injuries, and referred to people pictured lying on the ground near the arena as having "agreed to take part in an exercise".

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However, in a ruling on Thursday, Judge Richard Davison ruled in favour of Mr Hibbert and Eve and said that without this early decision, Mr Hall would "use the trial as a vehicle to advance and test his staged attack hypothesis".

Judge Davison said: "Suffice it to say that, although his beliefs may be genuinely held, his theory that the Manchester bombing was an operation staged by government agencies in which no one was genuinely killed or injured is absurd and fantastical and it provides no basis to rebut the conviction."

He said it was "fanciful" to suggest that Abedi did not die and "still more fanciful" to argue the bomber was an intelligence asset.

The judge continued: "Whilst acknowledging that issues as to the claimants' presence at the attack and the attack itself are separate and distinct, once the defendant's general hypothesis has been rejected, as I have rejected it, it is unrealistic to maintain that the claimants were not there and were either not severely injured at all or acquired their injuries earlier and by a different mechanism than the bombing.

"Indeed, the latter points are simply preposterous."

Further hearings are expected to take place to determine the rest of the claim and costs.

Following the judgment, Mr Hibbert said: "I am pleased by the court's sensible ruling today. I believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, there comes a point where the line is crossed and action has to be taken.

"Hall's views on what happened at the arena are repugnant and offensive to those who suffered so badly that evening. When he started to approach my daughter and her home as part of these fanciful investigations he went way too far.

"It is unacceptable to bring anxiety and distress to us in this way and a stand had to be taken. I am pleased that a court saw through his ridiculous assertions."