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Protect Duty and the Potential Impact of Martyn’s Law 

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What is Martyn’s Law/Protect Duty?  

Currently, there is no legislative requirement for organisations or venues to consider or action specific security measures in (most) public places.  However, in the aftermath of the May 2017 Manchester bombing, subsequent investigations revealed that improvements to the security of the venue could have saved lives.  

Following years of campaigning and lobbying by victim’s groups, the Government has been moving ahead with a proposed Protect Duty, commonly known as ‘Martyn’s Law’, after one of the victims.  If passed, Martyn’s law will create a legislative requirement for owners and operators of public spaces to implement measures designed to protect the public from potential future attacks.  

Currently, it is not known what impact this legislation will have if passed.  However, the information from a government led consultation with the public points to several important considerations.  

The consultation ran from 26 February to 02 July 2021.  The Government response to the consultation noted that 7 in 10 respondents agreed that those responsible for publicly accessible locations should take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the public from attacks.  This includes ensuring staff are trained to respond appropriately.  Further proposals with broad support in the consultation included:  

  • Scaling of the duty based on venue capacity, with larger organisations taking greater responsibility;  
  • The need for accountability, such as the need for clear roles and responsibilities, particularly amongst event organisers, and those at senior level within venues and organisations; 
  • An inspectorate that would identify key vulnerabilities and areas for improvement, as well as sharing best practice. 

 

(“the Protect Duty”) 

Participants in the consultation were evenly split on whether there should be civil penalties to ensure compliance to the Duty. 

 

Who will be affected by Protect Duty? 

A publicly accessible location has currently been defined by the Government as:  

“Any place which the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission” 

Therefore, those potentially affected by the legislation will include venues, organisations, businesses, local authorities, public authorities and individuals. In short, the impact will likely be widespread.  

 

Potential considerations under Protect Duty 

The Government consultation on the Protect Duty quizzed respondents on certain specific measures and suggestions, and it can be inferred that there are various measures that will probably need to be considered should the Duty become law.  

The Government’s stated desire is for the measures required under the Protect Duty to be “reasonable and not overly burdensome”.  These measures will likely include the following: 

  • Risk assessments for terrorism.  Whilst 50% of respondents stated that they already conducted risk assessments for terrorism, this may become a requirement under the new Protect Duty.  This could involve assessing site-specific vulnerabilities, such as blind spots in CCTV coverage and unlit areas. 
  • Considering and implementing ‘reasonably practicable’ measures to provide security and preparedness against the risks assessed.  This might include an evacuation strategy and plans for how to react to these risks, measures to protect staff and training to implement these measures.  
  • One term used several times in the Government consultation is “hostile reconnaissance”, which refers to terrorists visiting potential target locations to scout them out prior to an attack.  The consultation document states that venues should consider what could be done to make this more difficult, including being alert to suspicious behaviour such as people loitering, filming or taking photographs, or even asking questions about security-relevant matters. 
  • Being “security minded in your communications”, with online activity in particular being highlighted.  Avoiding providing specific information that could aid in the planning of attacks, such as detailed floor plans, could form part of this.  
  • Cultivation of a “security culture” is also mentioned, which refers to staff being able to easily report any concerns, and managers leading by example.  This appears to be a direct response to the investigation into the Manchester bombing, which found that staff noticed suspicious behaviour but were unable to communicate and warn effectively.  
  • The above assessments, plans and training should be updated to ensure continued effectiveness.  

 

Government support 

Whilst the potential costs and added administrative and bureaucratic burden of the Protect Duty may seem daunting in today’s economic environments, most people would seem to agree that it is necessary to protect lives.  

Reading the potential requirements of the Protect Duty above, several considerations are currently somewhat vague, or may be difficult for staff to implement.  Not providing detailed floor plans for the sake of security is logical, for example, but public venues must also make it clear where exits are, and so it is not obvious where the line is drawn between the security consideration for hostile reconnaissance, and considerations for evacuation due to terror attack, fire, or any other reason.  

These concerns were given consideration in the Government consultation, which asked what advice and support the Government should provide to help bring those affected by the Protect Duty into compliance.  The applicant responses stressed that the following would be required: 

  • Sector specific advice; 
  • A strong focus on clarity as to what will be required under the Protect Duty; 
  • Communication and engagement on a local level with dedicated points of contact for those affected by the Protect Duty; 
  • Developing security awareness through easily accessible formats and information sharing; 
  • Funding and resources for those supporting the Protect Duty, including possible additional manpower for Counter Terrorism Security Advisors and Police; 
  • Guidance regarding physical security measures, with CCTV being mentioned in particular; 
  • Support with risk assessments and the compliance process, and ensuring enough time is granted for organisations to implement the policies and plans they develop; 
  • Ensuring advice is regular, consistent and realistic, as well as keeping it in line with new developments and threat levels.  

What can Quigg Golden do for you?   

It is not yet known precisely what measures will be required under Protect Duty, but Quigg Golden can provide advice related to how the procurement and construction industries can prepare for new legislation.  

Should you have any questions on the contents of this article, or if our services are of interest, please do not hesitate to contact us.   

 

 

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