10 July 2023
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Conversation with Priscilla Addo-Quaye on Martyn's Law and the future 'Protect Duty'

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The terrorist attacks in London and Manchester in 2017 changed the UK's response to terrorism. The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill, published on 2 May 2023, provides a first look into how security law will be shaped by these events. There are plans to extend the duties on those who host events or own venues to actively protect the public who gather there from the risk of atrocities like we saw in Manchester. Businesses can get out ahead now and review their own safety procedures to ensure they are ready for the new duty, when it comes. 

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill, currently facing scrutiny by the Home Affairs Select Committee, marks the first step in the codification of a 'Protect Duty'. The catalyst for the creation of this new duty was the changes in terrorist methodologies exemplified by the Manchester Arena bombing. We are privileged to have been able to represent three bereaved families as Core Participants at the Manchester Arena Bombing Public Inquiry. Managing Associate, Priscilla Addo-Quaye spoke to us about what the Protect Duty is, where it comes from and what it means for businesses involved in hosting public gatherings. 

What is Martyn's Law?

The Home Office recently published draft legislation, known colloquially as Martyn's Law, in honour of Martyn Hett, one of the Manchester Arena bombing victims. The law is a response to the terrorist attacks that occurred in London and Manchester in 2017. It is the culmination of many years of tireless campaigning by Martyn's mother and others, who saw there was a gap in legislation around the duty on venue owners to actively protect the public from terrorism. It aims to reduce the impact of terrorist attacks, clarify responsibilities for security at relevant premises, improve consistency in security and expand support for those responsible for security.

Why is it necessary?

The 2017 terrorist attacks highlighted the risks posed by self-radicalised individuals carrying out relatively unsophisticated attacks that can cause significant harm. In the UK, there are over 928,000 publicly accessible locations but, currently, there are no mandatory requirements for these premises to consider terrorist threats or implement security measures. The Manchester Arena Inquiry emphasised the limitations of existing schemes for protecting the public in crowded spaces and recommended the introduction of a 'Protect Duty' as advocated by Martyn's mother.

What will Martyn's Law do?

Martyn's Law, or The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill, to give it its official title, will, if it becomes law, codify a new duty to consider and factor in risks around terrorism. This will mark a significant step forward in the security and safety framework. The duty will operate on the owners and operators of qualifying locations to take proportionate steps to protect the public from a terrorist attack. They will have to consider and address terrorism risks and take appropriate steps to protect the public from terrorist attacks. The Draft Bill defines 'qualifying locations' to include shops, food and drink venues, nightclubs, theatres, music venues, sports grounds, libraries, museums, galleries, conference centres, childcare and education settings, and places of worship. Office and residential locations are currently excluded from the scope as well as locations where transport security plans are already in place under existing legislation. 

What will owners and operators need to do?

The Draft Bill will introduce a two-tier system. Venues with a capacity of 100 to 799 people will be subject to the 'standard tier' and will be required to complete a standard terrorism assessment and ensure workers have been provided with terrorism protection training. Venues with a capacity of 800 people or over will be subject to the 'enhanced tier' and will be required to complete a terrorism risk assessment, ensure reasonably practicable security measures are put in place, appoint a designated senior officer, ensure workers receive terrorism protection training and prepare a security plan. Temporary events with a capacity of 800 or more will be known as 'qualifying events' and will broadly be subject to the same requirements as 'enhanced tier' venues. 

How will the 'Protect Duty' be enforced?

Under the draft provisions, failure to implement requirements could lead to significant monetary penalties and prosecution for criminal offences. A new regulator would be established to enforce compliance. They would be given inspection powers, the authority to issue notices, and the ability to impose fines for non-compliance. The maximum fine for non-compliant venues could range (on the current provisions) from £10,000 to £18 million or 5% of qualifying worldwide revenue.

What do businesses need to do now?

The Draft Bill has not yet been tabled in Parliament and so it could change before it is officially tabled. However, on the basis of the current draft provisions and the proposed two-tier system (with different requirements based on venue capacity), owners and operators of qualifying venues or events could be proactive in identifying the steps necessary to bring them into compliance, as and when the duty becomes law. The measures set out in the bill include completing terrorism risk assessments; providing terrorism protection training to relevant workers; appointing a designated senior officer; and preparing and maintaining a security plan.

How can AG help?

It is worth noting that the Draft Bill has faced some criticisms, including a lack of clarity regarding its overall purpose and the potential impact on different parts of the United Kingdom, so we do expect changes to the text before it formally comes before Parliament. While the finalised Bill has not yet been published, we can help venue owners and operators by reviewing and revising their existing procedures, providing staff training and generally helping them to assess the impact of the changes for them. We can also help them to take proactive steps to get out ahead of this becoming law. This includes monitoring the National Threat Level, understanding the specific risks posed by terrorism through the Government's Action Counters Terrorism application, and developing response plans in case of an incident.

Next steps

For personalised advice on how Martyn's Law may apply to your organisation or event, please feel free to contact us. 

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