The UK Government recently published its response to a consultation on proposed legislation known as the 'Protect Duty'. The legislation aims to make the public safer by improving security standards in crowded public spaces, venues, and publicly accessible locations – in other words, environments potentially at risk from terrorist attacks.

While the exact legal requirements are still to be determined one thing is clear, Protect Duty will be introduced. With that in mind, here are six questions you might have and answers to help you prepare for the law’s introduction.

1. Is Protect Duty also known as Martyn’s Law?

Yes, Protect Duty is also referred to as Martyn’s Law. This is because the proposed legislation evolved from campaigning by Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett – one of the 22 individuals who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017. Her lobbying for stronger anti-terror security measures has focused heavily on the need for organisations to better ‘protect’ members of the public who have access to spaces and venues they are responsible for.

2. Does the legislation only apply to hospitality, retail and transport?

Its scope is by no means restricted to these three industries. If your organisation owns land or operates facilities that the public has access to (referred to as Publicly Accessible Locations or PALs), this legislation is likely to apply to you as well. Crucially, however, the focus is on introducing a ‘proportionate’ approach to protective security i.e. smaller venues or spaces will not be expected to have the same measures in place as much larger or more complex facilities. This was very much supported by consultation feedback which highlighted that organisation size and venue capacities should play a part in determining the requirements that need to be met.

3. Should I start to prepare for this now?

Nothing is set in stone yet. But this doesn’t mean organisations can’t start preparing. If the public accessibility criteria apply to your operations, it is worth starting to review and assess your existing security processes in terms of:

  • vulnerabilities,
  • risk mitigation measures,
  • counter-terrorism plans such as evacuation procedures etc., and
  • staff training

These are all expected to factor into demonstrating compliance.

4. What type of investment will ensure compliance?

Compliance doesn’t have to mean a big investment. Protect Duty will not replace existing security and anti-terrorism procedures. It’s designed to make processes more robust in meeting a uniform standard. With this in mind (and given the most organisations responsible for PALs will already have a suite of processes and technologies in place), the message is one of ‘adapt’ rather than ‘introduce’. For instance, we are already working with several customers on looking at how their existing surveillance command and control solution can be used to monitor, enforce and report on new operating protocols that may be introduced.

5. What type of people training and procedures will be required?

Ensuring your team know what to do in terms of updating and executing risk mitigation measures and procedures will be fundamental to Protect Duty compliance. Again, this was a key theme in the consultation feedback – particularly in terms of defining roles and responsibilities.

As well as looking at free resources available to help with this – for instance, See, Check and Notify (SCaN) training, it is also worth looking at workflow solutions that can be built into your security, health and safety management systems that provide on-screen scenario-based guidance based on live data received. It is also worth noting that it is the government’s intention to launch a digital platform that will consolidate advice, guidance and resources to assist organisations.

6. Will I need to set up new mechanisms for working with external agencies e.g. the police?

Consultation responses “highlighted the need for legislation to require all parties to consider threats and mitigations, and also effective engagement and communication between partner organisations". While this does not necessarily translate to a need for new mechanisms, it does suggest organisations should review their existing protocols for working with external parties including emergency response teams. This particular aspect of the Protect Duty lends itself to cloud-based security solutions that support real-time collaboration, coordination and evidence sharing.

Protect Duty is not yet fully defined, but it is coming. And with many core principles clearly outlined, there is no reason why many organisations can’t take valuable proactive steps now in preparation. Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSAs) are a valuable source of advice and support for organisations that Protect Duty will apply to.

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