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Anti-terror legislation for UK venues moves closer

UK venues would have a legal duty to protect the public from terrorist attacks under new legislation being considered by the government following the Manchester Arena bombing.

The government has today (10 January) published a summary of responses to the Protect Duty public consultation.

Protect Duty, which would standardise more stringent, airport-style security checks at major entertainment and sporting venues, has been championed by victims’ groups, including the Martyn’s Law campaign established by Figen Murray following the loss of her son in the May 2017 attack in Manchester, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert.

“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,” says home secretary Priti Patel. “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, 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.”

A total of 2,755 responses were received from organisations, sectors and campaigners during the consultation period, which ran from 26 February to 2 July 2021. The majority supported plans to introduce stronger measures – including a legal requirement for some public places to ensure preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks.

Taking measures to ensure that there is an appropriate and consistent approach to protective security and preparedness at public places is a reasonable ask

In the ministerial foreword to the government response document, security and borders minister Damian Hinds MP reasserts his commitment to advancing the legislation.

“Terrorist attacks can potentially occur anywhere, in large or small venues, at a range of locations,” he says. “It is vital that the government continues to consider how and where improvements can be made to combat the threat of terrorism and further enhance public security.

“The Protect Duty would be one means by which we seek to further enhance public security, sitting alongside our existing and ongoing work programmes to achieve this aim. 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. 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.”

He concludes: “I recently met Figen Murray… and other representatives of the Survivors Against Terror Campaign Team, who have campaigned for ‘Martyn’s Law’, to ensure a specific legislative requirement be developed.

“I have also engaged with the Counter Terrorism Advisory Network, a national stakeholder forum, whose membership includes survivors of terrorism. Listening to and reflecting on the experience of survivors has reaffirmed my commitment to take forward Protect Duty legislation.”

The government is now set to process its response to the consultation and progress the legislation, with further announcements due from the Home Office over the coming months.

Last June, the Manchester Arena Inquiry, led by chairman Sir John Saunders, published the first of three reports about the terror attack.


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