Martyn’s Law and the Future of Event Security
What led to Martyn’s Law?
The Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on the 22nd of May 2017, should have been like any other, with fans leaving the venue safely having enjoyed the show. However, as concert-goers and their parents left the venue on that fateful night, they were tragically caught in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in UK history.Islamist extremist, Salman Abedi ripped loved ones from families and friends as he detonated an improvised explosive device in a suicide attack, killing 22 concert goers and parents and injuring 250 more. Not since the 2005 London Bombings has there been such a devastating attack on British soil.
The aftermath of the Manchester Arena Bombing
Following the bombing, the UK government raised the country’s terror threat level to critical, its highest level. In the same year, the Westminster and London Bridge Attacks took place, further highlighting the risk posed by terrorists to crowded places.
An independent public inquiry into the Manchester Arena Bombing was also launched by the Home Secretary on 22 October 2019, with hearings commencing on 7th September 2020. While the inquiry into the attack is ongoing it has found that a ‘fatal cocktail’ of security failures contributed to Manchester Arena being unsafe on the night of the incident .
One of the victims of the Manchester Bombing was 29-year-old Martyn Hett. Following the tragedy, Martyn’s mother Figen Murray has spoken about attending an event in Manchester the following year. She had assumed that security searches would be extensive following the incident and so made a conscious decision to only take a very small handbag. She was horrified to find that on arrival, no search procedures were in place and security practices, not visible. This prompted Figen’s campaign, now known now as the ‘Protect Duty’ or ‘Martyn’s Law’.
Why is the Protect Duty also referred to as Martyn’s Law?
The ‘Protect Duty’, also known as Martyn’s Law, is named after Martyn Hett who was tragically killed in the Arena bombing. As a result of Martyn’s Mum tirelessly campaigning for security to be placed higher on the agenda by event organisers and venues. The ‘Duty’ has been produced in honour of all lives lost at the hand of terrorism and the hundreds injured, by extremists in the UK in 2017.
Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn, has been lobbying the government to bring in new security measures since her son’s death in 2017. She has been key in spearheading the campaign around Martyn’s law and has spoken out about the need for greater legislation around event security.
What is Martyn’s Law?
In the simplest terms, Martyn’s Law or the ‘Protect Duty, is a proposed piece of legislation that aims to create a coherent and proportionate approach to protective security. The proportionate part is very important as not all sites and venues are the same so a blanket approach would be counterproductive.
Who does Martyn’s Law apply to?
The proposed legislation has been designed to apply to any place or space that the public has access to. As you can imagine this covers an incredibly diverse number of sites and venues, from small cafes to large arenas.
What is covered in Martyn’s Law?
Martyn’s Law proposes five key requirements for any publicly accessible location. These requirements are:
- A requirement that spaces and places to which the public have access engage with freely available counterterrorism advice and training.
- A requirement for those places to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces.
- A requirement for those places to have a mitigation plan for the risks created by the vulnerabilities.
- A requirement for those places to have a counter-terrorism plan.
- A requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.
How does Martyn’s Law differ from existing legislation?
Currently, there are a number of existing pieces of legislation that apply to public places and spaces from a crime and/or safety point of view. These include –
- Crime and Disorder Act 1998
- Licensing Act 2003
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Civil Contingencies Act 2004
However, there is no current legislation in the UK that is aimed solely at providing counter-terrorism protective security or preparedness outcomes for publicly accessible locations. While the government explored opportunities to expand one of the aforementioned laws, a review found that no existing piece of legislation encompasses all the proposals put forward in Martyn’s Law.
What does Martyn’s Law mean for the future of event security?
If brought into law, the Protect Duty could have important ramifications for public safety, businesses, and the security industry. While at this stage we may not be able to fully predict the impact, there is a lot to suggest how it may change these areas.
What does Martyn’s Law mean for the general public?
Looking at the requirements listed in Martyn’s Law, the new legislation could greatly improve public security and help protect people as they go about their day to day lives. In particular, additional support from counter terror experts could be hugely beneficial, as currently a staggeringly low number of crowded places are prioritised for direct support.
“Of the estimated 650,000 crowded places in the UK, only about 0.2% are prioritised to receive direct support from the state’s network of counter-terrorism experts”. (Martyn’s Law Final Report)
However, there is always the fear that legislation surrounding security will turn events and public spaces into a ‘fortress’ and raise alarm for attendees. As well as there being a perception that entering an event would take longer and cause delays to attendance. This is why taking the ‘proportionate’ approach as advocated by the legislation will be so important.
What does the new Martyn’s Law mean for local businesses?
We have repeatedly stressed the importance of the ‘proportionate’ approach outlined in the legislation. Martyn’s Law has been written with an understanding that all publicly accessible locations have different requirements when it comes to counterterrorism. There is a huge difference between a small bar or cafe and something like the Manchester Arena. For small venues, the proposed legislation may simply require an addition to their already mandated fire plan, while for bigger more complex venues it will require a more holistic approach.
What does Martyn’s Law mean for the security industry?
The UK has one of the most mature and well-respected security industries in the world and has been a world leader in counterterrorism for decades. The vast experience contained within this industry means that it is well prepared to support any requirements that emerge from new legislation. One suggestion raised within the Martyn’s Law Report is the possibility of an industry-led programme where funding is made available to security equipment providers rather than individual places or spaces.
What barriers are there to Martyn’s Law being adopted?
After a disastrous 14 months for the event industry following the global pandemic, there has already been a detrimental impact on the economic prosperity of event companies. Consumer confidence to attend large events is likely to continue to be at an all-time low until the COVID-19 vaccine programme begins to reach the wider population. Disposable income is also reduced following the individual impact on household income throughout the pandemic. Because of this, event organisers might struggle to fund additional, mandated security measures, and to pass the cost onto event-goers may not be viable.
It is believed that much of what is outlined in Martyn’s Law can be achieved without significant cost to businesses. As for cases requiring greater expenditure, it has been suggested by those campaigning for Martyn’s Law that the government should play a significant role in stimulating the acquisition of security infrastructure.
Having secured countless public spaces across the world, we cannot stress enough that security design and implementation must be properly understood so that the security vulnerability is not shifted to another area. For instance, if you secure the perimeter of an event space and have ticket checks in place at this perimeter, you are still leaving a vulnerable queue of people waiting to get inside the event and have their tickets checked. It is important to look at all aspects of an event’s operation to ascertain where the vulnerabilities lie. It’s important that venues and local authorities are well educated on security as well as having access to security experts. Successful security schemes usually involve dialogue with a number of different stakeholders.
Who is responsible?
With many organisers having Health & Safety personnel in the post, there is a fear that the additional responsibility of ‘Security’ will be included within this job role. The two disciplines, Security and Safety are very different and the needed knowledge to implement a security scheme for an event or area would be absent.
Football stadia have made a move to implement Security & Safety Officers, to oversee safety initiatives as well as security, including physical, personal, and cyber. This role now includes the analysis of the ‘final mile’, or the fan’s journey from the nearest transport hub to the ground itself. Although this move has been welcomed, there does not seem to be any additional training for safety officers who have had security encompassed into their role because of this shift. The security background and knowledge of people within this post vary extensively from ground to ground, no benchmark or additional support seems to exist.
Part of the ‘Protect Duty’ facilitates free ‘ACT’ training for staff which helps to develop knowledge within an organisation. This course alone is not enough however for personnel to design and implement a security scheme. Personnel from within the security industry would need to be consulted for this knowledge.
It is not clear at the moment how the Duty will be implemented and if there will be any legal consequences for event providers if a security protocol is not followed. The Duty will not work if mandating is not put into place. But again, this requires investment and structure.
The next step for Martyn’s Law
There is no doubt that the ‘Protect Duty’ is a huge step in the right direction and one which the Security Industry has been crying out for. Much of the detail is still yet to be ironed out and published, though what is currently available is very promising. The success of the bill will very much depend on a framework being laid out for those affected.
The first reading took place on 3 February 2021, which at this stage is a formality that signals the start of the Bill’s journey through the Lords. The second reading – the general debate on all aspects of the Bill – is yet to be scheduled, and until then, we will wait patiently to hear more about the future of event security.