Following a public consultation, the proposed introduction of legislation to minimise the risk of a successful terror attack has received overwhelming support from stakeholders in the UK.

The draft Protect Duty bill is set to get its first reading in Spring 2023. Protect Duty, which is also known as "Martyn's Law", was campaigned for by the mother of one the victims of the Manchester Arena attack in 2017. The duty is intended to apply to the whole of the UK with an aim of enhancing security at certain publicly accessible locations and venues to ensure the public is better protected from constantly evolving terror threats.

Latest government figures show that 27 terrorist attacks have been prevented since March 2017, which has made the need for an extra layer of protection and make the UK more resilient to terrorism. It is for this reason why HM Government has committed to introducing the Protect Duty in this parliamentary term.

In December 2022, the Government issued a statement (see here) on the Protect Duty bill, which provides some insight into the intended nature and extent of the duties that are likely to be imposed on organisations and individuals who control or have responsibility for publicly accessible buildings, locations and venues.

Based on what is said in the government statement, the intended duty will not be as wide-ranging or prescriptive as proposed in the original Protect Duty consultation document. However, those caught by the legislation will still be required to take a variety of pro-active steps and measures, depending on the scale of eligible premises and type of qualifying activity, to improve preparedness for and response to terror-related risks.

Those responsible for shopping centres, retail outlets, sporting events, fairs, concert venues and other publicly accessible places and spaces, such as hospitals, colleges and university campuses, will fall within the scope or Protect Duty.

As matters stand, Protect Duty is intended to apply only to those eligible locations, spaces and buildings (including collections of buildings used for the same purposes, such as university or college campuses), both permanent and temporary, with a capacity to hold 100 or more people at any one time, with the aim being to have two "tiers" of duty holders:

  • Standard tier - premises/locations with a capacity of 100 or more at a time
  • Enhanced tier - premises/locations with a capacity of 800 or more at any time.

Those who fall within the standard tier will be required to undertake low-cost, effective, activities to improve preparedness aimed at minimising the risk of a successful terror attack. The standard tier obligations are likely to include:

  • Conducting risk assessments for eligible locations and qualifying activities, taking into consideration the impact on the public
  • Raising awareness amongst staff via information sharing, training and the use of government published/sponsored guidance and resources, similar to the guidance and resources currently found on the ProtectUK security hub
  • Completion of a preparedness plan to embed practices, such as locking doors to delay attackers progress or knowledge on life saving treatments that can be administered by staff whilst awaiting emergency services.

Duty holders who fall within the enhanced tier will additionally be required to undertake a risk assessment to inform the development and implementation of a thorough security plan. Controls and measures associated with a security plan will necessitate developing a vigilance and security culture, and the implementation of reasonably practicable physical measures such as: lockable doors and secure spaces which can be used to delay attackers and protect staff and visitors. CCTV systems, procedures for checking people and personal items/bags prior to entry and measures aimed at preventing access by hostile vehicles, such as anti-ram barriers/bollards.

If Protect Duty comes into force, an existing or newly formed regulatory will be responsible for monitoring compliance and, when required, taking enforcement action. The current message is that compliance with will be through providing assistance and encouragement but that enforcement notices will be served on duty holders who repeatedly ignore advice and/or be issued with a civil penalty. The amounts currently being considered are up to £10,000 fine for standard tier dutyholders and up to a fine of £18 million or 5% of global annual turnover for enhanced tier dutyholders.

If you would like to receive a further advice on how upcoming legislative changes are likely to impact your business, or you need some help in assessing the risks and establishing what measures would be relevant and proportionate to your business, our team of experienced regulatory solicitors will be able to provide a tailored legal advice and help you with implementation of plans - to ensure that you and your business stay compliant with the new Protect Duty legislation.

This article is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice.