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Martyn’s Law: What does it mean for businesses following the King’s Speech announcement

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The Government’s Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill featured in the King’s Speech 2023 on Tuesday (November 7), indicating the Government’s intention to pass the new law in the coming months. Security expert Marcus Gerrard, of Safetyflex Barriers, discusses what this means for businesses…

Business owners will join national efforts to tackle the rising threat of terrorist attacks in the UK under new legislation which has taken a significant step forward this week.

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill was one of 21 Bills mentioned in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, signalling the Government’s intention to pass it into law in the coming year.

The Bill will place a statutory duty on qualifying premises and events to take proportionate and reasonable measures to improve public safety and protect against the threat of terrorism.

Under the current draft, that could mean business owners creating anti-terrorism plans and staff undertaking terrorism protection training so they are briefed on how to react to a situation and evacuate customers, or installing hostile vehicle mitigation such as bollards and barriers.

The changes are something businesses must start preparing for now, but what exactly does this law mean in practical terms? And how can businesses ensure compliance?

The Bill is known as Martyn’s Law, named after Martyn Hett, who was one of 22 people killed by a terrorist attack as they left an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in 2017.

According to the Home Office, the legislation could affect some 650,000 businesses in the UK, but the scope will look different dependent on the size of your business or event.

The new duty will apply to qualifying public premises – that is essentially those which are accessible to the public, hold 100 people or more, and is used for one of the qualifying activities such as retail, food and drink, entertainment, recreation and leisure, places of worship, healthcare, and more.

Public events such as a food market or festival must also abide by the rules if they have a capacity of 800 or more where there is express permission to enter with or without payment.

The scope of the law is currently going through pre-legislative scrutiny and the Government has stressed “proportionality is a fundamental consideration” when setting out requirements, which is fundamental to making sure this is right for business owners as well as the public.

At the moment it is set out in a two-tier system: standard duty, and enhanced duty.

Those in the standard tier will have a maximum capacity for 100 people or more – like a library or restaurant – and must undertake a terrorism evaluation assessing the types of attack likely to occur, what measures have been put in place to mitigate against this, and the response to an attack.

They must also devise a six-step terrorism plan which outlines how they will inform people on the premises of an attack that is taking place, how they will lock down the premises, evacuate members of the public and staff, notify emergency services, consider first aid and fire safety, and inform people nearby.

Terrorism protection training must also be given to staff at each premises or event.

Those in the enhanced tier will have a maximum capacity of 800 people or more – such as a large-scale hotel – and have additional responsibilities such as setting out a robust security plan and appointing a designated senior officer responsible.

All qualifying premises and events must also register with a regulator set by the Secretary of State, likely to be a local council.

The sheer variety in activities the law will apply to means it will impact everything from museums, gyms to shops, and will form part of initial staff training alongside health and safety procedures, as well as annual company system reviews.

Proposed enforcement includes a maximum fine of £10,000 for standard duty premises or £18 million for enhanced duty premises – or five per cent of the person qualifying’s worldwide revenue, whichever is greatest.

Whilst there is a monetary incentive to comply on top of a financial cost to ensure businesses are compliant, the potential real-life human impact of not following these rules is far more serious.

The stats tell us there have been 15 terror attacks in the UK since 2017 and the national threat level is currently set at ‘substantial’, which the Government classes as meaning ‘an attack is likely’.

Predicting targets is tough, and methods of attack are diverse and continuously evolving, which makes them hard to prevent too.

However, from our experience of working with businesses and protecting publicly accessible locations – whether it’s stadiums such as Twickenham, Wimbledon and the home of Saracens Rugby Club, to visitor attractions such as the London Eye – hostile vehicle mitigation is one of the most important measures to protect from the threat of potential attacks.

Since 2014, vehicles have been used as weapons in more than 140 attacks worldwide and an overwhelming majority (nine out of 10) did not have significant security barriers or bollards in place. That’s a worrying figure which demonstrates the need for a tougher stance on terrorism.

Campaigners have fought for the Bill to be passed as soon as possible and its inclusion in the King’s Speech this week is the signal many have been waiting for which tells us it is now coming, to help the country better prepare for possible attacks and ensure public safety.

That challenge must begin now – and it is owed to victims like Martyn Hett and others.

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