Anti-terror legislation moves closer for UK venues

AO Arena in Manchester, England

Featured image credit: G-13114/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

The UK Government has published draft legislation that will strengthen security provisions at venues across the country.

The draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill sets out the requirements that, under ‘Martyn’s Law’, venues and other organisations will have to meet to ensure public safety. Martyn’s Law is a tribute to Martyn Hett who was killed alongside 21 others in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017.

A standard tier will apply to public premises with a maximum capacity of 100 or more people, whilst an enhanced tier applies to public premises and events with a maximum capacity of 800 or more people.

Standard tier premises will be required to undertake basic, low-cost activities to improve their preparedness, including terrorism protection training and evaluating the best procedures to put in place in order to minimise impact.

Enhanced tier premises and events have further requirements in recognition of the potential consequences of a successful attack. This will include appointing a designated senior officer who must regularly review the security of the venue.

An inspection and enforcement regime will be established to promote the requirements for each tier. In the event of non-compliance, sanctions and ultimately penalties will be issued to premises.

The draft bill will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Home Affairs Select Committee, ahead of formal introduction. In December, the Government announced that Martyn’s Law would introduce a tiered model for certain locations depending on the capacity of the premises or event and the activity taking place, to prevent unnecessary burden to business.

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said: “The threat from terrorism is enduring. In recent years, we have seen terrorists target the public at a broad range of locations, causing deaths and casualties amongst innocent people going about their everyday lives,

“This is a significant step forward for Martyn’s Law and our ability to further protect the public. I welcome the committee’s scrutiny to ensure that this legislation is proportionate while enhancing our national security.”

Martyn’s Law will extend to and apply across the whole of the UK and has been developed following extensive consultation with the public, businesses and campaign groups. Among the campaigners was Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett. Her campaign for Martyn’s Law has informed the process leading to the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill.

Murray said: “This is an important step forward to a safer country. Martyn’s Law will end the ridiculous situation where venues have legal obligations for how many toilets they have, but no obligation to keep their customers protected.

“Of course, Martyn’s Law won’t stop all terror attacks, but it will make crowded places better protected and prepared, and make the terrorists’ job that bit harder. Almost six years after the Manchester Arena attack it’s now critical this bill is passed into law as quickly as possible and in the strongest form possible.”

In March, the third volume of an inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena attack found that there was a significant missed opportunity by MI5 to take action that might have prevented the disaster.

The report by inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders stated that it was not possible to reach any conclusion “on the balance of probabilities or to any other evidential standard” as to whether the attack could have been prevented.

However, the report added that there was a “realistic possibility that actionable intelligence” could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing Salman Abedi carrying out the attack.

The attack took place on May 22, 2017 following an Ariana Grande concert at the arena, now known as the AO Arena. The third volume of the inquiry detailed Saunders’ findings and recommendations on radicalisation and preventability surrounding the attack.

The second volume of the report was released in November and found that one of the victims of the attack could have survived if the response from the emergency services had been quicker.

The first volume of the report was published in June 2021 and criticised venue operator SMG and security provider Showsec for the measures put in place before the attack, with Saunders stating that there were missed opportunities to prevent the “devastating impact” of the disaster.