Consultation on new Protect Duty measures launched

The government has opened consultation on new Protect Duty measures 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. The new ‘Protect Duty’ will draw on lessons learned following terrorist attacks in 2017, and more recently, from the Manchester Arena attack. The proposed law builds on discussions with families of victims, and is also know as Martyn’s Law, following a campaign led by the mother of Martyn Hett who was killed in the Manchester attack.

Protect Duty, once made law, would require venue operators to consider the risk of a terrorist attack, take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare for, and protect the public from, such an attack. Measures could include increased physical security, staff training, incident response plans and regular practice exercises for staff on what to do during an attack.

Marble Arch London BID will be working with our member venues to ensure they are fully briefed and able to respond to the consultation.

To which spaces and venues would the new Protect Duty apply?

A publicly accessible location (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. Publicly accessible locations include a host of everyday venues and spaces, including, but not limited to:

  • sports stadiums
  • festivals
  • music venues
  • hotels
  • pubs
  • clubs
  • bars
  • casinos
  • high streets
  • retail stores
  • shopping centres and markets
  • schools and universities
  • medical centres and hospitals
  • places of worship
  • government offices
  • job centres
  • transport hubs
  • parks
  • beaches
  • public and civic squares and other open spaces

The proposed changes would not apply to the rail, aviation or maritime sectors where legislation to deal with terrorist threats already applies.

Is there a threshold at which the Protect Duty applies?

Yes, this is what the government is currently proposing and consulting on:

  • owners or operators of publicly accessible venues with a capacity of 100 or more (e.g. shopping centres, cinemas and sporting venues), or temporary event locations within defined boundaries (such as outdoor festivals);
  • large organisations employing 250 staff or more that operate at publicly accessible locations across multiple outlets, with a capacity of 100 or less, across a wide geographical footprint, where there is significant and/or regular public footfall on a regular basis. High street retailers, supermarkets, chemists, betting shops and petrol stations could all fall within this category; and
  • public spaces where boundaries are undefined (e.g. public squares, pedestrianised areas and parks).
Consultation on new Protect Duty measures launched
Consultation on new Protect Duty measures launched

What will be required of organisations ‘in scope’?

For public venues and large organisations in scope, the government requires that owners and operators should:

  • carry out regular, thorough risk assessments identifying the range of threats considered, using government information, guidance and best practice from Counter Terrorism Police and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI);
  • set out the steps planned and taken to mitigate these threats, including ‘reasonably practicable’ protective security measures;
  • have in place a plan for responding in the event of an attack, this means organisational preparedness measures including rolling programmes of staff training and practice ‘drills’;
  • account for situations in which preventative steps have not been carried out.

The assessments would need to be recorded and retained by venues and organisers and reviewed at least annually.

What about boundaries and public spaces?

The Duty to Protect will have far reaching implications for public spaces such as high streets and civic spaces. ‘Grey space’ between public space boundaries and organisations will require high levels of inter-agency planning and co-operation. For the first time, a Protect Duty will require those responsible for a venue and adjacent public location that could be a potential terror target to engage with one another.

Consultation on new Protect Duty measures launched
Consultation on new Protect Duty measures launched

What if there are cost implications?

As the majority of venues have already considered or undertaken protective security actions, not least in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government hopes that a Protect Duty will have minimal financial implications for most venues. The issue of ‘proportionality’ is a key tenet of the consultation, to be considered alongside size of venue, location and function.

There may be instances where proportionate security measures would involve more significant mitigation requirements, such as introducing measures for access control or reducing the risk of vehicles as a weapon of attack. For measures that entail time and cost to design, plan and implement, a reasonable period would need to be allowed to implement measures within a business.

How would compliance be enforced?

One of the key questions in the consultation phase is how the new Duty might be monitored and enforced. An inspection regime is suggested that is grounded in the provision of advice and guidance on risk assessments, mitigation and improvement. Repeated failures to act would be followed by enforcement in the form of fines rather than imprisonment. This would be similar to the framework in which the Information Commissioners Office or the Health and Safety Executive functions.

Who can respond to the consultation?

This consultation is open to the public, and is targeted at venues, organisations, businesses, local authorities, public bodies and individuals who own or operate at publicly accessible locations or others that a ‘Protect Duty’ would potentially affect.

Running for 18 weeks, views are sought in the consultation phase on:

  • who the Duty should apply to;
  • what it will require stakeholders to do, what guidelines and definitions of ‘reasonably practicable’ and ‘proportionate’ need to be set;
  • the various compliance options; and
  • how the Government can support those venues and organisations in scope.

You can view the full consultation here.