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24 Feb 2020

Government proposes duty to protect public spaces from terror

Government proposes duty to protect public spaces from terror

On 22 May 2017 a suicide terrorist bomb was detonated by Salman Abedi at the Manchester Arena claiming the lives of 22 people and seriously injuring dozens more. One of the people who died that night was Martyn Hett, whose mother Figen Murry has campaigned tirelessly to have the Government introduce legislation to mandate security at all public venues; she has referred to it as ‘Martyn’s Law’.

The Security Minister, James Brokenshire MP on 24 February 2020, announced plans to introduce a law ( which will require owners and operators of public spaces and venues to put in place measures to keep the public safe from a terrorist attack. Figen Murry’s diligence looks like it has paid off.

The Government had made a manifesto commitment to improve the safety and security of public venues and spaces and James Brokenshire explained that the new ‘Protect Duty’ will reflect lessons learned following the terrorist attacks in 2017, as well as more recent attacks.

This new law would require venue operators to consider the risk of a terrorist attack and take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare for and protect the public from such an attack and is to be consulted on in the spring. In essence there are five elements to it:

  • A requirement that spaces and places to which the public have access engage with freely available counter-terrorism advice and training.
  • A requirement for those places to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces.
  • A requirement for those places to mitigate the risks created by the vulnerabilities.
  • A requirement for those places to have a counterterrorism plan.
  • A requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.

In the government press statement released with the announcement of this new law, Security Minister James Brokenshire said:

“Our first priority is keeping the public safe and preventing more families from suffering the heartbreak of losing a loved one. The devastating attacks in 2017, and more recently at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham, are stark reminders of the current threat we face. We are in complete agreement with campaigners such as Figen Murray on the importance of venues and public spaces having effective and proportionate protective security and preparedness measures to keep people safe. Of course, it is important that this new law is proportionate. This public consultation will ensure we put in place a law that will help protect the public while not putting undue pressure on businesses.”

Earlier in the year Manchester City Council had taken the lead and proposed a scheme to develop best practice amongst licensed venues and exploring the ways by which Martyn’s Law could be implemented at a local level. They were going to tie this into current licensing requirements thereby revising them to incorporate specific counter terrorism measures in order to improve safety.

Nick Aldworth, a former Chief Superintendent with Counter Terror Police UK and a  National Counter Terrorism Co-ordinator who has been instrumental in helping the Martyn’s Law scoping and lobbying, with Figen Murry, when asked by Philip Ingram MBE, “What are the most important things you think the government should concentrate on and areas you don’t want to see weaken as the government implements Martyn’s Law?”

He said, “The bit most people are really worried about is what is it going to cost and we respect that for a small business that will be an issue, the things we don’t want to see watered down are the breadth of the law so that it is focused  on just a bespoke small group of large companies. We want it to be expansive but in order for that to happen we recognise that the most likely aspects which most people would comply with are awareness, training and having a plan. That plan doesn't need to be complicated.”

He added, “I wouldn't want to suggest this just for businesses, so it should include schools, education establishments or anywhere where the landowner or the property owner has got responsibility for looking after people in whatever context.”

What many businesses don’t realise is that that cost concern that Nick Aldworth raised shouldn’t be a burden as there is a plethora of good free advice that already exists to meet each of the 5 elements.  This advice is maintained and published by Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) on behalf of the Government.

The CPNI website ( publishes continuously updated free advice and guides to meet the needs of the new legislative framework, even before it comes in, the advice is there today, with clear outline of the threats, security planning and how to leverage CPNI resources to help businesses.

Working closely with CPNI is the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO). This is a police unit that supports the ‘protect and prepare’ strands of the government’s counter terrorism strategy or CONTEST.  Again, through its website ( there is a lot of free advice.

Support isn’t just limited to government organisations and one area is already offering financial incentives for having a vulnerability assessment and mitigation measures in place.  That organisation is Pool Re, the terrorism re-insurance company, underwritten by the government to ensure businesses can get insurance for acts of terror that damage them.

Pool Re have a Vulnerability Self-Assessment Tool (VSAT®) which is a simple easy to use platform to help businesses self-assess their security risk management in line with UK Government best practice and builds on advice from CPNI and NaCTSO. 

It is currently aimed at medium and large businesses, the VSAT tool can enable Pool Re Member insurers to offer a 7.5 percent premium discount to policyholders, a real financial incentive for the bigger organisations to adopt Martyn’s Law principals early through them as the financial incentive is available now.

It works by asking a number of question sets related to different aspects of security risk management, with language and subject specific terminology adapted for ease of completion by competent or qualified persons within their organisation. Assessment uses a traffic light, Red Amber Green, system and gives a score allowing problem areas to be easily identified and mitigation measures suggested.

However, for all businesses the Pool Re website offers a free Security Best Practice Guide that is packed full of useful information and guidance, providing additional support and best practice across a wide range of security topics, from physical security to drones and cyber and is free to download.

The public consultation will be launched in spring and will seek views from a broad range of organisations including business, public authorities, the security industry and campaign groups to ensure the proposals remain proportionate for publicly accessible spaces and venues across the country.

The consultation will ask for views from business and the public sector on the proportionality, scope of the duty, and how it should be enforced.  All of the organisations involved with the legislation, advice and threat mitigation techniques will be represented at this years International Security Expo at Olympia on 02 and 03 December.  Most of the technological solutions that can help improve risk mitigation will also be there and as it is a free event, it is another resource that can be used to help meet the new legislation at no cost to individuals or businesses.

Reserve a free pass to attend now –

We were proud to welcome Figen Murray at International Security Expo 2019. Figen gave a heart felt presentation to a packed room of security professionals from around the world. We interviewed Figen after the show: please take a look at this interview below.

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