On 2nd March 2023, Sir John Saunders, Chairman of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, released the third and final volume of his report into the terrorist attack at the arena on 22nd May 2017 which killed 22 people and left many more with life-changing injuries.
Whilst the terrorist attack in Manchester was no doubt one of the most heinous of recent times, unfortunately it is not the only one. Indeed, since 2017, there have been no fewer than 14 terror attacks which have caused deaths and injuries, both physical and mental, to people who were simply going about their day-to-day lives.
What the Manchester Arena Inquiry has done, however, is bring the issue of the UK’s preparedness for such attacks to the fore of public debate and Government considerations, primarily thanks to the incredible campaigning by the victims’ families, led by Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett. Her determined efforts led to a Government announcement on 19th December 2022, setting out details of a Protect Duty which will now be known as Martyn’s Law in tribute to her son.
It has been acknowledged, following public consultation and engagement with many other stakeholders, that without legal compulsion, counter terrorism security efforts often fall behind legally required activities. This has led to inconsistent - and at times ineffective - prioritisation, consideration and application of security processes and measures which must now be addressed as a matter of public protection and national security.
Following the release of the final volume of Sir John Saunders’ report, the Home Secretary told Parliament that draft legislation for Martyn’s Law will be published in the spring with a Bill introduced thereafter “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Whilst the final details and timescales are yet to be finalised, we know in broad terms what Martyn’s Law will seek to achieve and we have set out below what we can expect to see.
At its heart, Martyn’s Law is intended to reduce the risk we face from terrorism, and it will achieve this objective by mandating a consistent consideration and implementation of appropriate security measures and processes across publicly accessible locations (PALs).
By imposing positive obligations on those responsible for certain locations, the legislation will ensure that parties are not only better prepared but also better able to respond in the event of a terrorist attack. This was a key focus of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, in which the response of the emergency services in particular was widely criticised.
It is expected that premises will fall within the scope of Martyn’s Law if they meet the following criteria:
The premises is an eligible one, meaning a building or location/event with a defined boundary;
A qualifying activity takes place at the location i.e., entertainment and leisure, retail, museums and galleries, sports grounds, visitor attractions, temporary events, places of worship, health, education and public areas of both local and central Government buildings and
The maximum occupancy of the premises meets a specified threshold, specifically 100+ or 800+
Whilst the legislation will impose a positive duty on the owners and operators of certain locations, it is not anticipated that this should be a “one size fits all” approach; rather, the steps to be taken ought to be proportionate in consideration of the size and nature of the activities that take place. As such, it is proposed that Martyn’s Law will adopt a two-tiered approach consisting of a standard and an enhanced tier.
Standard tier will apply to qualifying locations with a maximum capacity of over 100 and will require the duty holders to undertake simple but effective activities to improve their protective security and preparedness. Such activities will likely include completion of free training, a preparedness plan and raising awareness for staff through appropriate cascading of information.
It is worth noting that all places of worship will be placed within the standard tier regardless of capacity except for a small number that charge tourists for entry and/or hire out the site for large commercial events.
The enhanced tier will apply to locations with a capacity of 800+ people at any time; for example, live music venues, theatres and department stores. Due to their increased capacity and the potentially much more serious consequences of a successful terrorist attack, such locations will have more onerous but proportionate obligations placed upon them. These are expected to include preparing a risk assessment and security plan which ought to be considered to a reasonably practicable standard. This is an important qualification because it will allow duty holders to balance the risk reduction against the time, money and effort required to achieve the goal.
The legislation will not apply to offices and private residential locations, or those where transport security regulations already apply. In addition, the duty will not extend to locations that are vacant over a reasonable period, permanently closed or those with large floor space but low occupancy in practice - for example, warehouses.
Compliance will be monitored through some form of inspection regime and although the precise nature and mechanics of this system are as yet unknown, it is expected to educate, advise and ensure compliance with Martyn’s Law, as opposed to simply applying sanctions for non-compliance, a power which it is expected to have.
It is perhaps obvious that some duty holders are going to have more work to do than others but the Government has certainly not rushed into introducing this new legislation. Indeed, discussions around preparedness to respond to a major terrorist incident was the subject of a London-centric independent review by Lord Harris in 2016.
It has been recognised through public and industry consultation that there is a balance to be struck so that people are kept safe but businesses are not burdened so much that they become unviable. To that end, the Government has given assurances that support will be available for those who are responsible for implementing the duties imposed by Martyn’s Law.
One thing that the Government has already done is to support an online portal, ProtectUK which is a very useful consolidated hub of guidance and advice from experts in security and counterterrorism. It is anticipated that in time, the portal will have increased content and functionality to assist all those who use it.
Even with the Government backed resources such as ProtectUK, the fact remains that it is the duty holders who will be responsible for the successful implementation of appropriate safety plans and measures at their premises. Although the legislation is yet to be published, even in draft, we all know it is coming and so it is not too early to act; indeed, quite the opposite.
As and when the legislation is introduced, it is fair to say that even with a reasonable lead time to allow premises to get up to the required standard, time and resources of those involved including outside contractors may be limited, so avoid delay and start with the basics now.
Acting now will allow the duty holder to retain a greater degree of control over timetabling and costs but moreover it is also likely to give staff, patrons and visitors to your premises increased confidence to attend time and again, safe in the knowledge that you as an operator are taking responsibility for keeping them safe from ever-increasing and changing terrorist threats without compulsion.
A pro-active approach will also likely find favour with those who insure relevant events and venues. Whilst it is hoped that insurers will recognise the measured and proportionate approach which the Government has planned, it is still possible that some insurers will simply see some premises/organisations as too high risk and simply exit the sector.
For those that continue to insure those who fall within the scope of Martyn’s Law, it is quite possible that they will cast further scrutiny on those they work with. Premises may be subject to pre-cover checks from security and/or health and safety consultants and may find themselves subject to scaled excesses if issues are identified which increase the risk or likelihood of falling foul of the law during the period of insurance.
Clearly there is still a lot that we do not know about how Martyn’s Law will affect our daily lives but doing nothing is simply not an option. At rradar, we take a proactive approach to risk management and our experience in the criminal and regulatory sector along with our close links to a number of insurers and brokers means we are perfectly placed to help those who will fall within the scope of the legislation, before, during and after it has been introduced by the Government.