Is your organisation Protect Duty prepared?

In the last few years, the UK has suffered a number of terror attacks in public spaces, including the large-scale atrocity carried out at the Manchester Arena in 2017.

Whilst there is currently no legislative requirement for organisations to employ security measures in the vast majority of public places, the UK Home Office has pledged to introduce a new law requiring venue operators to consider the risk of terrorist attacks and to take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare and protect the public.

Protect Duty, otherwise known as Martyn’s Law (in honour of Martyn Hett – one of the 22 victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombings), will be a new piece of anti-terrorism legislation that could soon come into effect.

This legislation will be directed at those responsible for Publicly Accessible Locations (PAL), ensuring they take sensible measures to protect their event, staff and attendees from something similar from occurring.

A PAL is defined as any place to 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.

What is Protect Duty?

Protect Duty is a new legislation under consultation that will require many businesses to formally assess terrorism risk for the first time.

Venues and events will need to conduct reviews to understand the risks of terrorist attacks and to take proportionate and reasonable measures to mitigate against them.

Similar to the need to adhere to rigorous health and safety legislation, what the Protect Duty does is add the same weight to counter terrorism and security measures.

Who will be affected by Protect Duty?

The Home Office estimates that 650,000 UK businesses could be affected by Protect Duty. There are three main areas it will potentially apply to:

  1. Public venues (eg. entertainment and sports venues, tourist attractions, shopping centres with a capacity of 100 persons or more)
  2. Large organisations (eg. retail or entertainment chains employing 250 staff or more that operate at publicly accessible locations)
  3. Public spaces (eg. public parks, beaches, thoroughfares, bridges, town/city squares and pedestrianised areas). This includes event organisers using these spaces.

How will it affect your business/organisation?

Central to the Protect Duty will be the need for a competent person to undertake (and to keep under review – as terrorist attack methodologies inevitably change) detailed, subjective risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and appropriate, proportionate mitigation measures.

Such mitigation measures may include: multi agency planning and exercising; training staff to identify and report suspicious behaviour and how to respond in a crisis; live CCTV monitoring; vehicle stop points; access control (including search and screening with or without the use of technology such as full body scanners); monitoring and patrols; ability to lock down; and in-depth crisis response and communication plans.

The Government considers that the owners and operators of public venues and large organisations should be required to:

• Use available information and guidance provided by the Government and the police to consider terrorist threats to the public and staff at locations they own or operate
• Assess the potential impact of these risks across their functions and estate, and through their systems and processes
• Consider and implement ‘reasonably practicable’ protective security and organisational preparedness measures (eg. developing a strategy that ensures you have assessed your site and its use, including suitable mitigation measures to protect staff, as well as staff training, and plans for how to react in the event of an attack)
• Develop a robust plan on how to deal with or act as a result of a terrorist attack

For smaller organisations and venues, this would involve simple low-cost (or no-cost) preparedness measures, such as ensuring that:

• Staff are trained and aware of threats, likely attack methods and how to respond
• Staff are trained to identify the signs of hostile reconnaissance and to take appropriate action
• The organisation’s response to different attack types is regularly updated and exercised.

What can you do to prepare?

Draft legislation for Martyn’s Law is expected to be published in spring 2023. It will apply across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the interim, businesses should consider how the Duty applies to them and to make the right choices regarding both existing set-ups and new projects.

Greenfield developments, in particular, would warrant a closer examination of the legislative approach now in progress in order to plan for compliance.

Making the right investments will ensure compliance with the Duty and deliver the highest levels of physical security protection.

How can we help?

Technology is a force multiplier which can improve operational efficiency, accelerate decision making and, most importantly, help businesses that cater to larger footfalls demonstrate compliance.

While not a substitute for practical due diligence and sound staff training processes, we strongly believe that a combined system of physical and behavioural interventions remains best practice where such an approach is deemed necessary following a risk assessment.

Martyn’s Law (Protect Duty) Factsheet 

Home Office press release 19th December 2022