A NEW counter-terrorism plan was issued 10 days before the Manchester Arena attack but was bungled and may not have been read by senior officers, the public inquiry has heard.

Inspector Simon Lear, from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), was charged with coming up with the new plan, issued on May 12 2017, just over a week before suicide bomber Salman Abedi murdered 22 innocent people.

The public inquiry, sitting in Manchester, is currently looking at the emergency services’ response to the attack and those in charge of preparing for the response to a mass casualty incident.

In November 2016, Islamist terrorists carried out bomb and gun attacks, designated as a Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA), on the Bataclan Theatre and Stade de France in Paris, killing 130 people.

That month, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) had reviewed 15 police forces and their own Operation Plato plan – the plan for dealing with an MTFA in the UK.

During a “hot debrief”, inspectors told GMP the force’s plans were deficient – but this was never passed on to Mr Lear.

Still in the dark over problems with the plan, five months later he was ordered by his boss, Superintendent Leor Giladi, to carry out an “urgent review” of GMP’s Operation Plato plans – and given a month to do so, following the March 2017 Westminster Bridge terror attack.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Mr Lear why no-one had told him that the original plans had been deemed deficient by inspectors.

Mr Greaney said: “Is that acceptable?”

Mr Lear replied: “Not really.”

A key weakness of GMP’s Operation Plato plan, identified by inspectors, and apparently common knowledge in the force, was the position of the force duty officer (FDO), the senior officer in charge at HQ at the time of any terror attack.

It had already been pointed out that the officer would have so many substantial tasks to carry out in the early stages of a terror attack that he would be quickly overburdened and the police response compromised.

However, although the inspectors had pointed out the weakness, it was not until five months after their debrief that Mr Lear was told by his boss, Mr Giladi, that GMP needed a new plan for an MTFA – and he was only given a month to do it, which left him in a “panic”, he said.

Yet in the revised plan, drawn up by Mr Lear’s colleague, Sergeant David Whittle, rather than reducing the workload of the FDO, it made no mention of the officer in such a position needing to delegate tasks and requiring help.

The new plan was approved and distributed on May 12, just 10 days before the Arena attack.

But, due to a “clerical error” Mr Lear said, the plan, emailed out to police FDOs and commanders, was marked “Draft” and no mention was made that this was a new policy replacing previous policy and effective immediately.

By the time of the attack Mr Lear agreed it was a “distinct possibility” that FDOs had not yet read the new policy.

Mr Greaney said: “The force duty officer is critical to the police response and the point where failure was going to occur?”

Mr Lear replied: “I agree with you, sir.”

The public inquiry, which began last September, is looking at events before, during and after the terror attack at Manchester Arena.

The hearing continues.