How A Mom’s Campaign for Better Venue Security May Impact 650,000 UK Businesses This Year 

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Anil Chitkara
Founder, Chief Growth Officer

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Publish date

May 10, 2022

Martyn’s Law Defined

Two years ago, at a national security conference in the UK, I sought out a presentation by Figen Murray. Figen is the mom of Martyn Hett, one of 22 victims killed in the horrific 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Her loss is unimaginable. She remains a mom to four kids and has not stopped fighting for the kind of change that creates good out of the evil that happened that day.

I knew a little about Figen’s story and Martyn’s Law, the legislation in her son’s name. She and Nick Aldworth, a former UK counter terrorism government official, stepped us through how the breakdown in arena security and emergency response that day inspired them to pursue new venue security legislation called Protect Duty, or Martyn’s Law.

Figen’s tenacity to turn her grief into action remains a powerful witness and unparalleled display of human spirit. She inspired me that day and still does. In fact, just five years since losing her 29-year-old son, Figen received her master’s degree in terrorism and counterterrorism (CT) from the University of Central Lancashire last year.

In 2013, as many of you know, my wife narrowly escaped the bombing at the finish line of the Boston marathon, and I lost good friends in the Towers on 9/11. For me, those two pivotal events inspired the launch of Evolv. Figen and I share a similar heartfelt and focused mission to do the work we do.

What is Martyn’s Law and when does it go into effect?

In the simplest terms, Martyn’s Law is legislation that aims to create a coherent and proportionate approach to protective security. The proportionate part is very important because not all sites and venues are the same, so a blanket approach would be counterproductive. In 2017, at the time of the attack, there was no legislative requirement for UK organizations or venues to consider security measures at the vast majority of public places.

On January 11, 2022, on the heels of an 18-week consultation, Home Secretary Priti Patel officially agreed to bring forward legislation to the UK parliament requiring venues to put in place security measures to protect the public from terror attacks. Full details are expected to be laid out in a written ministerial statement, at the earliest possibility. The Home Office is also helping to develop a new interactive online platform, which is due to launch this year, aimed at providing advice for organizations on counterterrorism.

Who does Martyn’s Law apply to?

The proposed legislation is designed to apply to any place or space the public has access to—an estimated 650,000 diverse sites and venues across the UK, from small cafes and pubs to large arenas.

What is covered in Martyn’s Law and what does this mean for businesses in 2022?

The Law includes five key requirements for any publicly accessible location:

  1. A requirement that spaces and places to which the public have access engage with freely available counterterrorism (CT) advice and training.
  2. A requirement for those places to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces.
  3. A requirement for those places to have a mitigation plan for the risks created by the vulnerabilities.
  4. A requirement for those places to have a counter-terrorism plan.
  5. A requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.

Advice from a UK counter-terrorism expert

It is understandable that businesses in the UK are wondering what the next best steps are and how to prepare for this legislation to go into effect. I asked Nick Aldworth to share his insights at this stage. Nick’s 36-year career included positions in policing and the military. He then became Detective Chief Superintendent in Counter Terrorism Policing where he held the role of National Coordinator (Protect and Prepare). Nick led the operational protective security responses to the London 2017 terrorist attacks and, prior to that, was the Chief Inspector of policing and security operations at the UK Parliament.

There are 650,000 businesses in the UK that may need to take some kind of action this year to map to Martyn’s Law. If the security measures they take are meant to be “proportionate”, what are these businesses expected to do and how quickly are they expected to do it?

Answer: Usually when novel-issue legislation is passed in the UK, the government will provide public awareness campaigns for some considerable time before they start to enforce the law. I expect that will happen in this case as businesses will understandably have to adapt to a new normal. Importantly, the idea of legal proportionality will only be defined over time, as cases are heard in court and precedents are set. However, as your readers will know, there are a range of options in any security solution. At the top end, there are solutions like the Evolv system, that provide effective screening in high-footfall situations. In less intense environments, the proportionate approach might include manual searching, or simply observant staff looking for suspicious behavior.

Where can businesses go to get relevant and current information about how they can implement Martyn’s law?

Answer: The UK is blessed with a government that provides authoritative information about how to reduce risk. The Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure, a government body, maintains a catalogue of tested and approved technical systems for businesses that want to follow the technical path. The police’s National CT Security Office provides advice on a range of issues from how to protect crowded places to how citizens can apply emergency first aid in terrorist situations. In the next few weeks, all this information will be brought into a single place, under the banner of Protect UK. This will be a digital platform that not only provides all the guidance in one place, but it also allows for the creation of credible communities that can exchange information.

If businesses want to start proactively responding in a phased approach to Martyn’s Law, how would a small pub, medium sized museum, and large event venue (for example) do this? What might be the priority measures for each?

Answer: For me, it’s always about getting your people engaged with counter terrorism first. When people are observant and engaged, they can disrupt a possible hostile incident or reduce the impact of an attack. In the UK, we run a program called See, Check and Notify (SCaN) that aims to help people understand how every employee can contribute to keeping their environments safe, while enhancing customer service. After people, it’s all about understanding your vulnerabilities and having a plan to deal with problems when they arise.

In your conversations with venue operators, how do you talk about the value to them? How does implementing better venue security and being in compliance with Martyn’s Law benefit them and their business?

Answer: This is a great question. Notwithstanding the imminent legal imperative (that already exists within public-liability laws), we talk about the moral imperative. We especially talk about the changing nature of terrorism that has led to anything being used as a weapon, against anybody, and anywhere. We discuss how the only way to combat such a potential proliferation of terrorism is by a whole-of-society approach. The last thing I always remind businesses is that good security is good CT security and both are good for business. At times of anxiety, customers want to feel safe and secure. They will stay in your venues longer and spend more money if they feel comfortable.

Why is Martyn’s Law, and the eventual compliance measures adopted by businesses, a good thing for the general public?

Answer: None of us want to live behind gates and walls; and we all want to enjoy our lives to the full. Proportionate security actually helps keep our societies free.

Conclusion

It is powerful how loss and tragedy can drive such remarkable and inspiring change for good. Figen is a hero for choosing the road less traveled. She has taken her grief and channeled it into action that will save lives in the UK.

Nick Aldworth has it right; none of us want to live behind walls and gates. We want to live freely and move freely. When the UK more formally adopts Martyn’s Law, these new security measures will make this possible, honoring Martyn Hett and the 21 others lost that day.

Anil Chitkara
Founder, Chief Growth Officer