Martyn’s Law still in need of fine-tuning, says law firm

Published on Tue, 31/10/2023 - 15:56

Financial and administrative burden on smaller events and organisations may be too high.

The incoming Protect Duty legislation designed to tighten risk management against terrorism at events venues, otherwise known as Martyn’s Law, may lead to a ceasing of smaller events due to the burdens of finances and time, according to a talk recently given by a partner at legal firm Carter Perry Bailey.

Speaking earlier this month, Helen Tilley, partner at the firm, alluded to the gaps, inconsistencies, and flaws within the bill. These included a reference to Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Office Select Committee, saying that the bill will in its current form ‘fail to make a significant impact in preventing or mitigating the effects of terrorism’.

The new legislation, said Tilley, is more likely to reduce the consequences of the attacks but not the attacks themselves. Likewise, Tilley pointed to the remarks of Jonathan Hall KC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who said that the majority of attacks since 2010 would be outside the scope of the bill.

Tilley outlined a number of steps that she said were needed to finetune the legislation. These included a review of the financial impact for small-to-medium enterprises, along with a reassessment of the threat level for the same. The current calculated figure over ten years of £2,160, she said, was too low.

She also questioned whether events such as a city-centre Christmas Market should be brought within the scope of Martyn’s Law. Such events currently do not fall under its auspices.

The draft version of Martyn’s Law was published in May. Its official name is the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) bill. It seeks to introduce 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.

According to the UK government, the new law 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.