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In the News

Martyn's Law Faces Criticism at Committee Stage

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

18th September 2023

Embodying the Prevent Duty, that public areas should be prepared in case of a terrorist attack, the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill has received criticism from the Home Affairs Select Committee for being burdensome on small businesses and not preventing attacks. Also known as Martyn’s Law, after a campaign to honour Martyn Hett who lost his life in the Manchester Arena terror attack, at the committee stage of the legislative process, the Select Committee, whilst commending the intent of the bill; they did envisage some issues with its implementation. Calling on the government to amend the draft legislation, they recommended that the legislation be introduced in stages, commencing with large venues.

In its current form it is proposed to apply where qualifying activities takes place, such as those at entertainment venues, visitor attractions, theme parks or retail outlets. For standard tier locations (anywhere with a capacity between 100-799) training on terrorism awareness must be provided to staff and there must be a terrorist evaluation conducted, considering the best response to a threat. For enhanced tier locations with a capacity of over 800, a senior officer will need to be appointed to complete a terrorism risk assessment and take measures to mitigate any risks which could be such things as hiring security staff or installing CCTV. Non-compliance could result in fines of up to £10,000 for smaller venues and £18m for larger venues. The regulator for this has not been named with the Health and Safety Executive being named as a possible board.

There were concerns at the committee stage that the introduction of this system would place a heavy burden on smaller venues, some of which could be community based or volunteer run such as events in village halls. Meanwhile larger outdoor events such as city based seasonal events such as Christmas markets or fireworks displays would be exempt, as they take place in the open air. Furthermore, these offer a greater risk of terrorist events. As such the Committee found that the proposed legislation would not have actually impacted of the most recent terrorist attacks and saw that it was unclear, being billed as preventative but rather looking at mitigating the consequences of terrorism.

Being published on the sixth anniversary of the Manchester terror attacks Martyn Hett’s mother, Figen Murray said the draft legislation was an important step forward, but has commended this criticism, particularly the proposed staged implementation, seeing this as a watering down of its intent.

Questions to consider

  • Research the current stage of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill as it passes through Parliament.
  • What are the stages that a bill must pass before it comes law? Are all these necessary?
  • Research another bill which has become law as part of a campaign to honour the life of a loved one.

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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