On 22nd May 2017, Martyn Hett was one of 22 people killed in a terrorist attack. Over 1,000 more were injured when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a homemade shrapnel bomb as people were leaving Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena.
After Martyn’s death, his mother Figen Murray assumed venues would have much stricter security measures. But only a year after the bombing at another concert in a Manchester theatre, she was shocked by the lack of security at the venue. On entry, she was neither asked to show her ticket nor was her bag searched.
She was devastated. “It felt as if what happened in Manchester on that fateful night had been forgotten,” she said.
The current terrorism threat level to the UK is ‘substantial’ meaning a terrorist attack is likely. Yet while legislation sets out how many toilets a venue must have and how food must be prepared, venues are not held responsible for having basic security in place.
Murray decided to lobby for change. Supported by Brendan Cox of Survivors Against Terror and Nick Aldworth, former Chief Superintendent for Metropolitan Police she launched a campaign for new legislation: Martyn’s Law.
What is Martyn’s Law?
Martyn’s Law proposed new legislation to keep the public secure when out and about. It won’t stop attacks, but it will reduce opportunities for terrorists. And deter them from targeting areas where people congregate.
Its goal is not to restrict people from moving freely about. Instead, Martyn’s Law aims to ensure venues do their utmost to keep their customers safe.
Figen Murray’s campaign was successful. After a public consultation in 2021, the government’s response was a new Protect Duty Act which will is expected to become law in the coming months (as of April 2023).
So, what is the Protect Duty Act? What does it mean for your business? And how will it affect your insurance?
What is the Protect Duty law?
Before the Protect Duty legislation, apart from at sports grounds or on public transport, organisations were not required to have security measures in place. Even simple precautions -- like installing safety barriers, having an action plan, or training staff -- were not legally required.
The new Protect Duty law is designed to protect the public from the risk of future terrorist attacks.
Who will the Protect Duty law affect?
The Protect Duty law will affect any premises which is deemed to have “qualifying activities” taking place. It applies to:
- Any venue with a capacity for over 100 people
- Any company employing more than 250 people (even if they work on different sites)
- Organisations responsible for public spaces where people gather, like parks and beaches
According to Gov.uk (2023), the law will apply to premises accessible to the public including “entertainment and leisure, retail, food and drink, museums and galleries, sports grounds, public areas of local and central Government buildings, visitor attractions, places of worship, health, and education establishments”.
It’s worth noting that the new law also applies to organisations operating multiple premises with regular footfall. Chains of betting shops, petrol stations and chemists, for example.
Additionally, the law will apply to events and festivals “which have a public capacity of 800 or more individuals, and where access to the event is by express permission (i.e. payment or ticketed entry)” (Gov.uk, 2023).
How will Protect Duty affect your business?
If your business falls into any of the above categories, you must:
- Assess the risk of a terrorist attack occurring at your organisation
- ‘As far as reasonably practicable’ take measures to reduce the risk of an attack
- Have robust plans in place to respond to a terrorist attack.
There may be some exemptions, although it’s not clear yet what those will be. Nor is it clear how the Act will be policed. Local authorities may be required to make checks and you’ll need to show you’ve made the necessary changes to continue trading.
You’ll also need to budget for the changes as the government has said it will not be providing funding. It’s worth remembering, however, that the security measures you put in place to prevent a terrorist attack will also prevent criminal acts. What’s more, these measures don’t need to be expensive. Specialist security products are only likely to be needed at larger sites.
How can your business prepare?
Changes need to be discussed as a priority at board level. Things to consider include:
- How many sites does your business have? What types? Is there a risk posed by adjacent properties? Assess the vulnerabilities and take steps to reduce the risks.
- Can you use existing resources more efficiently?
- Could you use advice from third parties – the police, CTSAs (Counter Terrorism Security Advisers) and SAGs (Safety Advice Groups)
- How will you monitor government advice, terror alerts and threat levels? How will you respond to changes?
- Staff training – what do they need and who should provide it?
- How will you adapt your risk management plan to include compliance with the Protect Duty Act?
How will the Protect Duty law affect your business insurance?
The Act will have an impact on your Directors’ and Officers’ Liability insurance.
Responsibility for ensuring your business adheres to the Act is a top-level priority. That means your directors can be held individually responsible for any perceived breach of duty. And that could result in a compensation claim.
Employer’s Liability and Public Liability policies currently have terrorism included but at a reduced limit. Employer’s liability cover is limited to £5 million while Public Liability policies often limit any one claim to £2 or £5 million. Would this be enough if there’s a terror attack at your organisation?
Your business’s proximity to others will also be a factor affecting your insurance. It increases the likelihood of multiple parties facing allegations of negligence or failure to comply with the new law. For that reason, insurers are likely to be concerned by the aggregation of this limit (how much they might have to pay out for the total number of claims during your policy period).
Insurers will now look closely at what your organisation is doing to meet its duty to protect. If you’re applying for a policy or renewing one, be prepared to demonstrate how you comply with the Act.
Questions you can expect will include:
- How many people gather at your location(s)?
- What properties are adjacent to yours?
- How accessible is your venue?
- What security measures do you have in place?
- Do you use external safety advisers?
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