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Out of the Shadows

Martyn’s Law Looks Set to Democratise Safety Around all of the UK’s Public Venues, Including Retail, But What Will the Business Impact Be?

Acts of terrorism are deliberately designed to be difficult to predict, largely because those who perpetrate these heinous crimes seek to maximise their damage by using the element of surprise—they remain in the shadowy world of deception and encryption so that no one knows where, when, or how they will strike.

This was horrifically and graphically demonstrated when lone terrorist Salman Abedi detonated his deadly shrapnel-filled rucksack at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017, killing twenty-two innocent people, as well as the killer himself, at the end of the event, a time guaranteed to create maximum damage to people and property. 

The devasting event created its own post-event shockwave by shining an unfavourable spotlight on UK preparedness for such atrocities and the nation’s readiness and training of frontline workers, from emergency services to the venue management and security teams. 

Although the city of Manchester came together as a symbol of solidarity with the families of lost ones, wider questions needed to be asked and lessons learned for the future.

Over the last seven years, the Government, driven by campaigners, has staged a public enquiry into what happened, with specific recommendations on what those lesson outcomes look like. The Manchester Arena Inquiry Volume One report strongly recommended the introduction of a legislative requirement to improve the safety and security of public venues.

It also launched an eighteen-week public consultation which received a total of 2,755 responses from a wide range of participants across the UK.

Seven in ten respondents agreed that those responsible for publicly accessible locations should take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the public from attacks. 

The threat picture is complex and ever-evolving, particularly in light of unrest of different parts of the world including the unfolding conflict in the Middle East and its potential to widen. 

The Need for Change

Counter terrorism (CT) experts using a red, amber, green matrix of risk severity know and understand that it is not “if”, but “when” there will be other attacks and attempts on UK soil, and by using their own shadowy networks of intelligence are able to detect and thwart those clear and present danger attacks before they are executed so that the general public remains safe, albeit largely in the dark.

That approach, however, is far from foolproof, and while the intelligence gathering must remain veiled in secrecy, moves are close to completion in the democratisation of the process of safety intelligence sharing, where there will be a wholesale transfer of the onus of keeping people safe in large, medium, and smaller public locations. 

Instead of information being the sole preserve of CT experts, responsibility for safety will shift to the owners and operators of the very spaces that are so attractive to twisted ideological terror groups focussed upon maximising murder and mayhem, whether it’s at a stadium, shopping centre, supermarket, or restaurant, all of whom will be expected to carry out a bespoke risk assessment in order to deliver targeted training to their staff including run, hide, tell coaching and evacuation and invacuation procedures. In short, safety preparedness for worst case scenarios will become everyone’s responsibility. 

To this end, in the next twelve months, a seismic piece of legislation will be enacted compelling those public-facing businesses to prepare their colleagues to be the outliers of counter terrorism defence by putting them on bespoke war-footing to protect themselves and their customers as and when the occasion demands it.

Martyn’s Law 

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill, better known as “Martyn’s Law”, in memory of Martyn Hett, one of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack in May 2017, has been introduced for parliamentary scrutiny this spring, after the Government included the bill within the Kings Speech on 7 November 2023, outlining intention to progress the legislation that has been in the making for the last seven years.

Working closely with security partners, business, and victims’ groups, including Figen Murray, Martyn’s mother, who campaigned for the change in the law, the new duty will require venues to take steps to improve public safety, with measures dependent on the size of the venue and the activity taking place. 

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “The way the city of Manchester came together as a community in the wake of the cowardly Manchester Arena attack, and the amazing work of campaigners like Figen Murray who have dedicated their lives to making us safer and promoting kindness and tolerance, is an inspiration to us all. I am committed to working with Figen to improve security measures at public venues and spaces and to delivering this vital legislation to honour Martyn’s memory and all of those affected by terrorism.”

Scope of Martyn’s Law

Businesses in the scope include premises and events—building or outdoor locations which have a readily identifiable physical boundary and access by express permission.

They must be accessible to the public and those with listed activities under the new law, namely entertainment and leisure facilities, retail, and hospitality venues serving food and drink. They must also have a minimum capacity of 100 or more individuals. Provision is made in the Bill for temporary events such as festivals that have express permission to enter and a capacity of 800 or more individuals.

The Bill will establish a tiered model—standard and enhanced—linked to the activity that takes place at a premise or event and its capacity. 

During the next twelve months there will be public consultation on the standard tier of Martyn’s Law, which will form the final leg of the legislation that has already engaged risk teams across the retail and hospitality sectors as well as those representing industry, education, public sector organisations, charities, and even places of worship—basically any venue that can accommodate large gatherings. 

The standard tier which is likely to be applied to most smaller retailers is targeted at venues that can accommodate between one-hundred and 800 paying customers. Above this number naturally falls over into the enhanced sector such as concert venues and stadia. 

The consultation will make sure the Bill strikes the right balance between public protection and avoiding undue burdens on smaller premises.

The Government wants to ensure businesses and venues can deliver what is required of them rather than imposing conditions upon them that they will struggle to meet. This will mean the law stands the test of time, and be accessible, proportionate, and deliverable for smaller premises because of the overall envisioned costs of implementation.

Cost to Business

The introduction of the new legislation to ensure that security preparedness is delivered consistently across the UK and better protection of the public, will be based upon “proportionality” when it comes to the cost of its roll-out, the lion’s share of which will fall onto the shoulders of the business community. According to Government figures, the business impact cost is estimated to be around £2.1 billion in implementation, the conducting of the necessary risk assessments and ongoing CT training costs. 

The public consultation, which was due to close on 18 March, was deemed necessary following concerns raised by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee about its potential impact.

Figen Murray

Figen Murray, the campaigning mother of Martyn Hett, who presented to the Home Affairs Select Committee told Loss Prevention Magazine Europe that the publicity around the committee hearing was misguided and caused confusion because smaller venues would be largely unaffected by the roll-out of Martyn’s Law.

“The major costs of the scheme would be under the enhanced standard where there will be inspections and the infrastructure requires safety investment,” she said.

“For those smaller businesses, investment will be a fraction of the cost—a lot of the counter terror training is free to deliver through the ProtectUKwebsite and the only cost to the business is one hour of staff time to go through it.”

“Smaller premises will have to carry out a simple risk assessment to identify exit routes and, if appropriate, a room for safe invacuation, ideally with bottled water and some cereal bars,” she continued.

“The costs will be proportionate rather than onerous—what was presented at the committee was a bit of a car crash in terms of confusing evidence and what felt like different agendas at times—it created a lot of extra work for us in terms of explaining the actual aims of the legislation.”

“The threat of terrorism is real. At Borough Market, a restaurant manager who had received counter terrorism training managed to lock the front door when he realised what was going on. This action in itself gave his staff and customers vital moments to invacuate in the basement.”

“Martyn’s Law isn’t going to stop terrorism, but common-sense security, and making sure venues are doing all they can to keep people safe, could mean fewer suffer what myself, and the families of Manchester, have had to endure.”

“I welcome the Government’s commitment to including smaller venues and working quickly on this legislation. It is vital we now take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others wherever possible and I hope other countries learn from this ground-breaking legislation.”

The plans have been developed following public consultation and extensive engagement across industry, charities, local authorities, security experts, and with survivors. 70 per cent of the thousands who responded to the consultation agreed that those responsible for publicly accessible locations should take measures to protect the public from potential attacks.

In a moving blog, she added: “Our life as an ordinary family ceased on 22 May 2017 when our son Martyn was murdered in a terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena. As a parent I might have been excused if I had disintegrated at that point. But I tried not to do that, but instead to channel my experience to help others.” 

“Exactly what that would mean I didn’t at the time know, but a year later after a theatre trip in Manchester where no security checks were performed, I knew that pushing for improved security was where I would focus.” 

“I had wrongly assumed that since the attack in May 2017, venues would have learnt their lesson and would have put stringent security checks in place. I was devastated to see that this was not the case. It felt as if what happened in Manchester on that fateful night had been forgotten.”

“I never set out to be an activist or to stir things up. However, the threat level to the UK from terrorism is currently stated as “Substantial”. This means that a terrorist attack is “likely”. As a parent who lost her son, I know only too well that nobody is immune to violence of this nature. We cannot predict when and where an attack can happen. So, as well as trying to track down terrorists before they commit atrocities, we also need to get better at protecting the public from the attacks we cannot foil.” 

“That means putting in place basic security procedures so that every venue and public space has a plan. Of course, what this would look like will be dependent on the venue and the circumstances. Martyn’s Law doesn’t advocate a one size fits all approach, it’s all about having a plan relevant to the threat. It seems absurd to me that we have legislation that sets out how many toilets a venue must have and how food must be prepared, but nothing that holds those same venues responsible for having basic security in place.” 

“Martyn’s Law isn’t going to stop terrorism—nothing can do that. But I do hope that if the Government legislate for Martyn’s Law, then it will mean simple common-sense security will make it much harder to inflict mass casualties and that fewer people will have to suffer what I and the parents of the twenty-one other bereaved families of Manchester have had to endure.”

It Will End in Tiers

Martyn’s Law will follow a tiered model linked to activity that takes place at a location and its capacity and aims to prevent undue burden on businesses. Dedicated statutory guidance and bespoke support will be provided by the Government to ensure those in scope can effectively discharge their responsibilities, with even small venues also able to benefit from this and take voluntary action. Expert advice, training and guidance is also already available on the online protective security hub, ProtectUK.

A standard tier will apply to locations with a maximum capacity of over 100 which can undertake low-cost, simple yet effective activities to improve preparedness. This will include training, information sharing, and completion of a preparedness plan to embed practices, such as locking doors to delay an attacker(s) progress, or knowledge on lifesaving treatments that can be administered by staff whilst awaiting emergency services.

An enhanced tier will focus on high-capacity locations in recognition of the potential consequences of a successful attack. Locations with a capacity of over 800 people at any time, will additionally be required to undertake a risk assessment to inform the development and implementation of a thorough security plan. Subsequent measures could include developing a vigilance and security culture, implementation of physical measures like CCTV or new systems and processes to enable better consideration of security.

The Government will establish an inspection and enforcement regime, promoting compliance and positive cultural change and issuing credible and fair sanctions for serious breaches. This will promote the requirements for each tier and the consequence of non-compliance, including sanctions, and ultimately penalties will be issued to premises.

Regulators will be appointed to visit enhanced premises to inspect, advise, and guide operators in regard to their requirements, and those enterprises captured in this category will be expected to notify the regulator of their premise or event as well as take “reasonably practicable” measures that will reduce the risk of a terrorist attack occurring or physical harm being caused. The reasonably practicable test is utilised in other regulatory regimes e.g. Health and Safety and will enable organisations to tailor their approach to the nature of the premises, their activities, and resources.

They must also keep and maintain a security document, aided by an assessment of the terrorism risk, which must also be provided to the regulator and, if the responsible person is a corporate body, they must appoint an individual as the designated senior individual for the premise or event.


Some retail establishments such as department stores and shopping centres would automatically fall into the enhanced category, but the overall direction of travel has been widely welcomed, with BRC Assistant Director, Graham Wynn, saying: “Given the number of retail premises, Martyn’s Law is particularly relevant to retailers. We have appreciated the Home Office’s willingness to make adjustments to the Bill—such as the move to make capacity the basis to meet changing needs—as well as make it more practical and proportionate.”

“It will be important to ensure all operational details work effectively—such as how the tiers operate at the margins. After closer examination of the detail, we look forward to the opportunity to provide additional suggestions as appropriate during the Parliamentary process. Martyn’s Law will extend to and apply across the whole of the United Kingdom and has been developed following extensive consultation with the public, businesses, and campaign groups. The significant majority agree that those responsible for publicly accessible locations should take measures to protect the public from potential attacks.”

2024 is going to be a critical year in Martyn’s Law’s long and circuitous journey. Figen Murray’s own rationale was that she could either channel her focus following this terrible atrocity into something positive, or “disintegrate” under the weight of personal grief. She chose the former approach of a high profile and painful pathway which has been pitted with frustration and setbacks, not least the confusion surrounding the cost implications of the new law that she was confronted with at the Home Affairs Select Committee which muddied the water for many businesses who are understandably nervous with regard to making sure they are doing the right thing. 

Within this information vacuum many vendor businesses have pitched their tents on the premise of offering consultancy on the impact of the new law and making money off the back of business confusion. Here, the Home Office has been clear that it does not endorse any providers of services pertaining to offer compliance solutions. Instead, it is signposting the official channels to go to for advice. 

For more information, affected businesses should visit the ProtectUK website, https://www.protectuk.police.uk/about-protectuk—a central, consolidated hub for trusted guidance, advice, learning, and engagement from experts in security and counter terrorism, which serves as the “go to” resource for free, 24/7 access to the latest information on protective security. It is regularly updated with new engaging content and increased functionality.

Questions can also be directed to the dedicated Martyn’s Law team within the Home Office at MartynsLaw@homeoffice.gov.uk.

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