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UK venues could face a legal duty to provide protection from terrorism

Regulatory / 25 February 2020

Businesses and local authorities could be required to put in place measures to keep the public safe from a terrorist attack under new proposals.

Security Minister, James Brokenshire, has unveiled plans to introduce a new law which will require owners and operators of public spaces and venues to put in place measures to keep the public space safe from a terrorist attack, a so-called “Protect Duty”. The plans follow a campaign by Figen Murray whose son, Martyn Hett, was among 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

The Home Office will consult on proposed measures such as:
– Assessing the risk of a terrorist attack;
– Increasing physical security at venues (including airport-style security checks to be mandatory at major sporting and entertainment venues);
– Training staff to respond to terrorist attacks; and
– Developing and implementing ‘place incident response plans’ for staff on what to do during and after an incident.

It will also consult on how failure to comply would be enforced.

Proportionality is key
There are currently no laws compelling venues to implement counter-terrorism beyond standard health and safety and fire prevention legislation. The consultation will need to consider what licensing and planning powers councils might need to drive improvements when a public space is designed and operated to make it safer.

It is critical that any new law is proportionate, with an overall objective of protecting the public, while not putting undue pressure on businesses. Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that while businesses were keen to see any measures to prevent or deter terrorism, ministers must carefully consider cost implications for smaller venues where owners already struggle with high costs. It is anticipated that the duty would be proportionate to the size and type of organisation.

The public consultation will be launched in spring and will seek views on proportionality, the scope of the duty and enforcement from a broad range of organisations including business, public authorities, the security industry and campaign groups.

We will keep you updated on this consultation. In the interim, if you would like advice on your health and safety and/or fire prevention duties as a business, or wish to be ahead of the curve in assessing and preventing terrorism-related risks, please do get in touch.

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