Protect Duty (Martyn's Law)

Introducing the proposed legislation which requires business, venues and events to better protect the British public against the risk of terrorism.

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Protect Duty (Martyn's Law)

Introducing the proposed legislation which requires business, venues and events to better protect the British public against the risk of terrorism.

What is Martyn's Law?

Martyn's Law is a proposed piece of legislation to better protect the British public from terrorism in any place or space to which they have access. It was headed by Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett who tragically died along with 22 others when a terrorist detonated a bomb at Manchester Arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

Figen assumed that venues would have stricter security measures since 2017, but realised after a trip to a local theatre that little had changed. She therefore drew up Martyn's Law to mobilise action aimed at keeping the public safer when out and about.

The new 'Protect Duty' would require public places to improve security measures to protect against a terrorist attack. It aims to learn lessons from 2017, achieving a coherent and proportionate approach to security at venues of any size.

What does the Law consist of?

The Protect Duty would place five key requirements on operators of public spaces:

  • To engage with freely available counter-terrorism advice and training. The law proposes that at least 25% of business / venue / event staff are Counter Terrorism Awareness trained. This training can last as little as 45 minutes at its most basic.
  • To conduct vulnerability assessments. This is a sort of counter-terrorism risk assessment, developed in partnership with local authorities and SAGs (Safety Advisory Groups), and should include consideration of 'last-mile' crowds outside of your venue or event.
  • To have a mitigation plan for the risks created by the vulnerabilities. Mitigation plans can often be achieved at very low cost but are extremely valuable to the security of your site. Steps to take might include drawing up search policies, hiring metal detectors, installing CCTV cameras, or employing security personnel at event-time.
  • To have a counter-terrorism plan. Martyn's Law proposes a new three-step plan to respond to terrorist incidents, called Guide, Shelter, Communicate. Guide people towards an appropriate location, either inside or outside the venue; Shelter people in lockdown for several hours if necessary; and Communicate with your visitors and with authorities. Make sure your staff know how to enact these steps.
  • For local authorities, to plan for the threat of terrorism. Local authorities should consider counter-terrorism in their Local Resilience Forum, creating a response and recovery plan to a range of potential threats.

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Progress of Martyn's Law in the UK

The current United Kingdom terror threat level is 'substantial', level 3 of 5, meaning 'an attack is likely'. However, the nature of terrorism has changed towards a 'DIY' terrorism. The security and legislative structure in the UK is more focused on organised terrorism, but terrorism has become a lot less structured.

Now a lot more onus falls upon venues and events themselves to do more to ensure their security. Terrorists unfortunately select what they perceive to be soft or exposed targets, so it is vital that staff are trained and have the processes in place to minimise the likelihood and impact of attacks.

A public consultation has taken place for Martyn's Law, with the government backing plans before being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 18-week consultation worked with organisations such as the counter-terror police to refine the legislation, including who would fall under it.

How can venues respond?

Venues have an obligation to plan for the 0.1% of times when something really bad does happen: mitigating against it happening in the first place and developing clear contingency plans in case it becomes reality.

However, until the Protect Duty is passed by the UK Government, the below points remain suggestions for venues to enact.

It is easiest if we categorise actions into the phases in which they should occur.

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Well in advance of an event, or in 365 venue planning

  • Here you will want to carry out that vulnerabilities risk asssessment, and keep it updated if your venues or the events you host change in any significant way;
  • Communicate with local authorities while building this, so that you have an informed look at the risks inside and outside your venue;
  • Ensure that any permanent staff have relevant counter-terrorism training.

In advance of an event

  • Devise and undertake readiness and testing exercises, so that you know your venue is ready for different scenarios that might occur. You can read our full piece on how readiness testing boosts your venue security.
  • Make sure that you have the required number of staff, with the required training, scheduled to work at the event;
  • Draw up contingency plans based on the vulnerabilities risk assessment you completed earlier;
  • Create daily run sheets for your event that take into account security considerations, especially the locations of trained staff across your venue at any one time.

Just before an event

  • Carry out standard operational checks on-site;
  • Brief staff to ensure planning is enacted and to confirm clear understanding of immediate action drills;
  • Carry out security checks, confirming that any security measures are working as expected, including, for example, metal detectors, CCTV, and emergency exit signs and doors.

During an event

  • By now you should be able to rely on everything you've done before, with your well-trained staff in the right place, responding to incidents and enacting contingency plans if necessary.

After an event

  • Learn lessons. Taking responsibility for your venue's counter-terrorism efforts might seem scary, and you won't get everything right first time. Keep developing your plans, scrutinise your readiness in the lead-up to every new event, and continue to improve your vulnerabilities assessment as part of your 365 venue management.