UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has confirmed that she plans to bring forward legislation later this year that will require venues and events to put in place security measures to protect the public from possible terrorist attacks. That commitment follows a consultation on proposals made in response to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.
A total of 22 people died during the terrorist attack at the Manchester venue, which occurred as an Ariana Grande concert was ending.
There is currently no legislative requirement in the UK for venues or promoters to consider or employ security measures at the vast majority of public spaces. In response to a campaign launched in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack, the government last year opened a consultation on a proposal that such a requirement, dubbed the ‘Protect Duty’, be introduced.
At the time the government said it was “committed to improving the safety and security of public venues. This consultation considers how we can work together to develop proportionate security measures to improve public security. It also considers how those responsible for publicly accessible locations are ready and prepared to take appropriate action, were a terrorist attack to happen”.
Noting that the government was in part responding to campaigning that followed the Manchester bombing, then Security Minister James Brokenshire added: “We also hope that these proposals respect and acknowledge the important work of all those who have campaigned for legislation”.
“In particular, I want to thank Figen Murray, whose son Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena attack, for the significant contribution she has made through her tireless campaign to introduce ‘Martyn’s Law’. We look forward to working with them throughout the consultation period to help gather their views and encourage others to contribute too”.
Ministers formally responded to the results of that consultation yesterday.
In her response, Patel stated: “Following the tragic attack at the Manchester Arena, we have worked closely with Figen Murray, victims’ groups and partners to develop proposals to improve protective security around the country. I am grateful for their tireless commitment to the Duty and those who responded to the consultation; the majority of whom agreed tougher measures are needed to protect the public from harm”.
“We will never allow terrorists to restrict our freedoms and way of life”, she added, “which is why we are committed to bringing forward legislation this year, that will strike the right balance between public safety, whilst not placing excessive burden on small businesses”.
Current Security And Borders Minister Damian Hinds MP went into more detail in his statement, saying: “The Protect Duty consultation received a significant number of responses, and the views expressed and presented in this document, and through consultation events, have provided a detailed evidence base of the opinions of the public and those organisations which operate at public places, as to what a legislative requirement could achieve and how it could best be taken forward”.
Hinds noted the strong support for the Protect Duty proposals, though also conceded that clarity was needed on what kinds of venues and events would be covered by the new requirements and what the new requirements would specifically involve, plus consideration was required as to whether affected venues and events were in a position to comply with any new duty.
“I have noted the strength of views expressed in response to several consultation questions, that it is right that those responsible for public places should take measures to protect the public and to prepare their staff to respond appropriately”, he went on. “In short, taking measures to ensure that there is an appropriate and consistent approach to protective security and preparedness at public places is a reasonable ask”.
“However”, he added, “the responses also highlighted the challenge of which organisations should be in the scope, and what would constitute proportionate security measures. This includes ensuring that there is not an undue burden on organisations, particularly those which are smaller in size or staffed by volunteers, such as places of worship. These are issues I am considering carefully. The government’s impact assessment for the Duty and its requirements will also robustly assess the question of costs and burdens further”.
Michael Kill from the Night Time Industries Association issued a statement regarding the government’s response, stressing that smaller businesses will definitely need support when the Protect Duty goes into force, and that ministers should factor that support in from the start.
Consideration also needs to be given, he added, to the fact that the night time and live entertainment sectors are facing extra challenges at the moment as a result of the COVID pandemic and various lockdowns, including a shortage of licensed security personnel. These challenges also need to be considered as the Protect Duty is developed.
Kill: “Our industry takes its role in protecting our staff and customers extremely seriously, and have proactively engaged with government departments throughout the Protect Duty consultation. Its been a challenging year for the sector, with the implementation of changing public health mitigations, and now under new regulations presented by the Home Secretary, the industry will be asked to contingency plan for potential terror threats within venues and events”.
“Larger clubs, events and festivals, that work with large crowds within the public domain, address the challenges as part of their planning process, working closely with police and local authorities on counter terror measures, which will complement much of the proposed regulations”, he added. “But there will be challenges for smaller businesses, which will need a considerable level of support from government and local authorities as they assess the risk and action plan accordingly”.
He concluded: “While we focus on public safety there are some concerns from the sector, particularly smaller independent businesses, on the cost of implementing measures, proportionality against risk, but also wider industry concerns, in particular the lack of licensed security personnel, which will be a fundamental requirement as we move into the busier periods of 2022. It is vitally important that the government, police and local authorities work closely with businesses through this process, but also consider some of the inherent challenges from the pandemic”.
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