Documents to download

The draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill was published on 2 May 2023. Known as ‘Martyn’s Law’ in recognition of the campaign led by the mother of one of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombings, it would require those responsible for publicly accessible venues to take steps to reduce the threat to the public from terrorist attacks.

The threat from terrorism

Between March and June 2017 there were four terrorist attacks in London and Manchester in which vehicles, knives and explosives were used to kill and injure members of the public. 36 people were killed in the attacks and almost 200 were injured. This represented the beginning of a shift in the typical methodology of terrorist attacks towards self-radicalised lone actors launching relatively low-sophistication attacks. Counter-Terrorism Police and the security and intelligence agencies have said that both the volume and nature of the attacks has made them harder to detect and prevent.

The national threat level from terrorism is currently “Substantial”. This means that an attack is likely.

Response to recent attacks

Following a review of its approach, the Government has introduced numerous pieces of legislation in the past five years aimed at bolstering the existing legislative framework for countering terrorism. Among other things this has:

  • created or amended offences to enable earlier intervention in terrorist plots;
  • amended sentencing and release provisions to provide for longer sentences to prevent automatic early release;
  • enhanced powers for the supervision of terrorist offenders; and
  • revised the scheme for imposing terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs), lowering the threshold, and increasing the range of measures that may be imposed.

The Bill: a ‘Protect Duty’

One of the recommendations of the Inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 was the introduction of a ‘Protect Duty’ on those responsible for publicly accessible venues and events to take steps to reduce the risk to the public from terrorist attack.

Currently, private sector organisations work with police to take steps to mitigate against terrorist risk on a voluntary basis. Whilst the private sector has generally been willing to accept advice, difficulties have arisen when it is unclear where responsibility lies, or where mitigations require significant expenditure.

To address this issue, the Bill would create a scheme under which publicly accessible venues and events would be required to take certain steps to reduce risk, such as terrorism protection training, risk assessment and mitigation, and maintaining security plans.

Venues with capacity of 100 or over would be subject to a standard duty, intended to be relatively light touch and low cost to implement. Venues with capacity of 800 or more, and qualifying public events, would be subject to an enhanced duty, entailing more onerous and costly requirements.

The Bill would also create a new regulator with powers to inspect and enforce the scheme. The regulator would be empowered to issue notices requiring the rectification of contraventions, or restricting the use of a venue in contravention. Compliance would be enforced through monetary and criminal penalties.

Are the costs proportionate?

The impact assessment estimates the total set-up and on-going cost of Martyn’s Law to be between £1.1 billion and £6.3 billion with a central estimate of £2.7 billion.

Concerns have been raised about the analysis of the costs and benefits of the scheme, and whether costs are proportionate in relation to small and medium sized businesses and voluntary organisations.

In the responses to the Government consultation that preceded the Bill a recurring theme was concern that the Duty may negatively impact organisations financially. 66% of respondents disagreed with the cost and benefit estimates included in the consultation. The main reasons for this were:

  • General additional costs, not just for businesses but for the public purse, such as adding policing requirements due to the enforcement measures;
  • Potential closure of organisations due to additional costs. In particular, small businesses, charities, voluntary organisations and places of worship were deemed most at risk;
  • The potential increase in insurance costs;
  • The vagueness of expense and overstatement of benefit.

The Regulatory Policy Committee has categorised the Government’s impact assessment as ‘not fit for purpose’, on the basis that it has not adequately addressed the impact on small and micro businesses.

Next steps

The Home Affairs Committee conducted pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and published a report in July 2023. The Committee welcomed the Government’s overall intention behind the Bill, but expressed ‘serious concerns’ about its proportionality, especially in relation to the impact on small businesses, voluntary and community-run organisations.

The Government has not yet responded to the Committee. 

The Government has published a series of overarching documents on the Bill, including the Explanatory Notes, Impact assessment and Memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Documents to download

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