Martyn’s Law (Protect Duty) and its Implications

Apr 30, 2024

The draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) legislation, otherwise known as the Protect Duty or Martyn’s law, has not yet been tabled by Parliament. However, it’s an election year, so we could very well see the Conservative government push hard to pass the Bill into law in order to meet its 2019 manifesto pledge, before the public goes to the polls. Especially if Figen Murray, the mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, has anything to do with it.

Ms Murray has tirelessly campaigned for a law tightening security at public venues. She plans to set off from the Manchester Arena on 7th May 2024 and walk the length of the country to arrive in Downing Street on the 22nd May 2024 – the seventh anniversary of her son’s death – in a bid to put pressure on the government to take action.

In the meantime, we examine what the bill could mean for venues, how it might protect the public, and the potential unforeseen consequences.

Martyn’s Law background

In May 2023 the Home Office published it’s long-awaited draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, known as “Martyn’s Law ”, in response to the Manchester Arena bombing and 14 other terror attacks on a broad range of venues which have taken place in the UK since the start of 2017.

Martyn’s Law (aka the Protect Duty) aims to improve the safety and security of public venues and keep the British public safer from terrorism, by ensuring public premises and events are better prepared for, and protected from, possible terrorist attack, and are capable of mitigating the impact of an attack and reducing harm.

Who will the Protect Duty apply to?

The duty will apply to all premises and events with a capacity of 100 or more – premises that are accessible to the public for a range of purposes including entertainment, leisure, retail, food and drink. Premises may be a building, or outdoor location with a readily-identifiable physical boundary. The Bill will also make provision for temporary events, such as festivals with a capacity of 800 or more individuals.

In addition to pubs, clubs, and entertainment venues, the duty will also apply to charities, community groups, social enterprises, places of worship, schools, and shops when they hold public events. This has generated cause for concern, given the pressure it will put on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) in terms of the financial, resource, and time burden required to comply. But I’ll come back to that…

What does the duty look like?

The Bill requires that publicly accessible venues and events take certain steps to reduce risks, such as terrorism protection training, risk assessments and mitigation, and maintaining security plans.

Venues holding 100 or more individuals will be subject to a ‘Standard Duty’, whilst venues and events with a capacity of more than 800 individuals will be subjects to an ‘Enhanced Duty’.

  • Standard duty:
    • Owners and operators of venues and events must understand the risks faced from terrorists and how/why their site might be affected, as well as considering appropriate mitigations. This means having in place procedural measures that could be expected to reduce, so far as reasonably practicable, the risk of harm to individuals at the premises in the event of an attack occurring or being suspected as about to occur.
    • It is not anticipated that standard-tier premises will be expected or required to make physical alterations to the venue or purchase additional equipment.
    • There is also no current requirement for standard-tier venues to complete a specified evaluation form or ensure that people working at the premises/event are given specific training. Although this is complicated somewhat by the requirement to put in place procedural measures, which does require workers to be sufficiently instructed or trained.
  • Enhanced duty:
    • This tier will see additional requirements placed on high-capacity venues in recognition of the potential catastrophic consequences of an attack. This will apply to venues and events with a capacity of 800 or more, for example live music premises and events, theatres, and department stores.
    • This tier requires that those responsible take reasonably practicable measures to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack occurring, or physical harm being caused – tailored to the nature of the premises and their activities.
    • Venues must keep and maintain a security document, aided by an assessment of the terrorism risk, and must appoint an individual as the designated responsible person.


How will the duty be enforced?

A national regulator will be set up with a broad range of powers, which will include the right to access and inspect qualifying venues and events, and the ability to impose restriction notices and fines for non-compliance.

Striking a balance between proportional public protection measures and undue burden on SMBs

There is no doubt the Bill is a great step forward in protecting the public against terrorism in places where they are perhaps most vulnerable. However, the biggest issues we see with the Bill in its current form are ambiguity around what is expected of venues; and exploitation, with ruthless companies charging extortionate sums to assist standard-tier venues in meeting their various obligations and training. Clarification of several areas of the Bill will go some way to resolving both issues. Additional free access guidance and support should also be made available.

Much has been debated about the significant, and perhaps unfair, burden the Bill places on SMBs/venues to engage in extensive training processes and costly risk management activities (both inside the premises and adjacent public areas ) – organisations that are for the most part still fighting to survive in the fallout from the pandemic. It is therefore vital that, as the Bill proceeds through parliament on its way to becoming law (which we anticipate will happen by the end of 2024), the right balance is struck between proportional public protection measures and undue burden.

The time to get prepared is now!

According to new research, less than a quarter of UK firms are fully confident they will comply with Martyn’s Law. According to insurance broker and risk management firm Gallagher, just 23% of UK firms are fully confident that they will comply; only 36% of hospitality operators have a team or person dedicated to assessing terrorism risks, with 25% not planning to make an appointment. Only 44% of businesses have enlisted external support to assess terrorism-related public safety risks.

Leverets Company and Commercial team can advise on the potential implications of Martyn’s Law for your business. Once passed into law we will guide you through the requirements of the legislation and the steps you can put in place to meet your obligation to protect public safety, including the level of staff training required, without causing undue financial or time burden – and without turning to rogue training firms and consultants.

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