Preparing for Martyn’s Law – Protect Duty

by Terence Ritchie

14 March 2023

The ongoing inquiry into the tragic Manchester Arena bombing back in 2017 has highlighted a need for publicly accessible areas to be better prepared to counter the threat posed by terrorism. For some years now, we have become accustomed to the national terror threat warning being raised and lowered, as circumstances dictate. However, some commentators feel both the general public and businesses at large have become immune to these changes and somewhat complacent as a result. Indeed, there is a fear that more often than not, changes in the national threat level are given little if no attention, meaning we are at risk of being caught off guard.

In an attempt to mitigate against such risk the government is proposing to introduce legislation (the Protect Duty, but more commonly known as Martyn’s law, after one of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, Martyn Hett, whose mother Figen Murray has campaigned tirelessly for such legislation) that will place much greater emphasis on property owners to provide better protection and preparedness against the threat posed by terrorism.

This legislation will require all publicly accessible premises such as hotels, conference centres, stadiums/arenas, places of worship, supermarkets and shopping centres to ensure they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to counter such threats. A whole new duty of care will be placed upon the aforementioned property owners to protect all 3rd party visitors from the threat posed by a terrorist attack. The extent of the law and the obligations it will impose will be dependent on venue size , rather than a one size fits all approach.

In terms of the likely obligations to be imposed on property owners, we’ll have to await the detail but we can expect to see more detailed risk assessments along with regular staff training in regard to spotting the warning signs and how to respond to such threats. There is also likely to be a duty of care on the property owner to ensure the safety of all public areas which will give rise to additional security measures as well as enhanced first aid and emergency procedures. There are also likely to be insurance obligations for property owners as well as considerations relating to 3rd party liability and licensing implications.

Full details of the proposals are expected to feature in the Kings speech to parliament this autumn. Very few would argue that such proposals are not a good idea and it seems likely that they will receive cross party support. However, it is hard to ignore the potential cost implications for property owners, many of whom are still reeling in the wake of the covid pandemic and ongoing cost of living crisis.

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