A High Court judge has branded a conspiracy theorist’s claim that the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing was not real ‘absurd and fantastical’. In the first case of its kind, Richard Hall is being sued by two victims of the terrorist attack for harassment, misuse of private information and data protection breaches.
The self-described journalist, broadcaster and media producer had claimed the terrorist attack was ‘a staged operation’ orchestrated by various government agencies.
Hall, who has been dubbed a 'disaster troll', claimed Salman Abedi, the bomber, was an ‘intelligence asset’ and that members of the public had been recruited and tasked with ‘portraying fake injuries’.
Hall ended up in court after he claimed that two victims of the bombing, Martin and his daughter Eve Hibbert - who were permanently injured - had been lying about what had happened following a concert by Ariana Grande.
Martin Hibbert received 22 shrapnel wounds and was paralysed from the waist down, while Eve suffered a catastrophic brain injury when a bolt from the bomb struck her in the head and destroyed the frontal lobe. She will require care for the rest of her life.
Hall had claimed the Hibberts had not been injured. He stated there was no ‘reliable, verifiable evidence’ they were at the arena and questioned the extent of their injuries.
To try and prove his claims, he visited Eve’s home where she lives with her mother in September 2019 and set up a camera inside his vehicle and recorded footage of Eve, her mother and her carer. He also published Martin and Eve Hibbert’s names, images and medical information in a book, in videos on his website and on YouTube, and in public lectures.
The claimants sued him for harassment, misuse of private information and data protection breaches.
In the High Court today, Master Davison approved an application by the claimants for summary judgment on the issues of whether the Manchester Arena bombing happened, whether the claimants were present, the extent of their injuries and whether they were caused by the blast.
The judge said: ‘Although [Hall’s] beliefs may be genuinely held, his theory the Manchester bombing was an operation staged by government agencies in which no one was genuinely killed or injured is absurd and fantastical.
‘Once the defendant’s general hypothesis has been rejected (as I have rejected it) it is unrealistic to maintain 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.’
The case was due to be listed for a further hearing to decide consequential orders, costs and directions to take the claim forward to a final determination.