Martyn’s Law: What is Protect Duty and How Will It Affect Your Organisation?

Martyn Hett was among the 22 individuals who lost their lives in a terrorist attack on May 22, 2017. As concertgoers were exiting Ariana Grande’s performance at Manchester Arena, suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a homemade shrapnel bomb, injuring over 1,000 people.

Following the passing of Martyn, his mother Figen Murray expected that venues would implement more rigorous security protocols. However, when she attended another concert at a Manchester theatre one year after the attack, she was taken aback by the inadequate security measures in place. Despite attending the event with neither her ticket nor bag searched, she was granted entry.

She was devastated. “It felt as if what happened in Manchester on that fateful night had been forgotten,” she said.

Despite the current terrorism threat level to the UK being ‘substantial,’ which means a terrorist attack is likely, legislation only stipulates requirements for venue facilities such as toilets and food preparation, without mandating basic security measures.

Figen Murray’s mother was determined to push for change and together with Brendan Cox from Survivors Against Terror and Nick Aldworth, former Chief Superintendent for the Metropolitan Police, she launched a campaign to introduce new legislation called Martyn’s Law.

What is Martyn’s Law?

Martyn’s Law advocates for new legislation aimed at enhancing public safety in public spaces. Although it may not completely prevent terrorist attacks, it could decrease opportunities for terrorists and discourage them from targeting areas where people gather. It aims to ensure the safety of customers at venues, rather than restricting their freedom of movement.

Figen Murray’s campaign was successful. After a public consultation in 2021, the government’s response was a new Protect Duty Act which will is expected to become law in the coming months (as of April 2023).

So, what is the Protect Duty Act, what does it mean for your business and how will it affect your insurance?

What is the Protect Duty law?

Organizations were not legally obligated to have any security measures in place before the introduction of Protect Duty legislation, except for at sports grounds or on public transport. Even basic safety measures, such as implementing safety barriers, having an action plan, or providing staff training, were not mandated by law.

The new Protect Duty law is designed to protect the public from the risk of future terrorist attacks.

It applies to:

  • Any venue with a capacity for over 100 people
  • Any company employing more than 250 people (even if they work on different sites)
  • Organisations responsible for public spaces where people gather, like parks and beaches

It’s worth noting that the new law also applies to organisations operating multiple premises with regular footfall. Chains of betting shops, petrol stations and chemists, for example.

How will Protect Duty affect your business?

If your business falls into any of the above categories, you must:

  • Assess the risk of a terrorist attack occurring at your organisation
  • ‘As far as reasonably practicable’ take measures to reduce the risk of an attack
  • Have robust plans in place to respond to a terrorist attack.

The new Protect Duty legislation may have some exceptions, though it’s currently unclear what those will be. Additionally, there’s no information on how the act will be enforced. It’s possible that local authorities will conduct checks, and businesses will have to demonstrate that they’ve implemented the required changes to keep operating.

It’s important to keep in mind that the costs associated with these security measures will need to be factored into your budget, as the government has indicated that it will not provide funding. However, it’s worth noting that the measures put in place to prevent terrorism can also help prevent other criminal activity. Furthermore, expensive specialist security products may only be necessary for larger venues, and simple but effective precautions can often suffice for smaller businesses.

How can your business prepare?

Changes need to be discussed as a priority at board level. Things to consider include:

  • How many sites does your business have? What types? Is there a risk posed by adjacent properties? Assess the vulnerabilities and take steps to reduce the risks.
  • Can you use existing resources more efficiently?
  • Could you use advice from third parties – the police, CTSAs (Counter Terrorism Security Advisers) and SAGs (Safety Advice Groups)
  • How will you monitor government advice, terror alerts and threat levels? How will you respond to changes?
  • Staff training – what do they need and who should provide it?
  • How will you adapt your risk management plan to include compliance with the Protect Duty Act?

How will the Protect Duty law affect your business insurance?

The implementation of the Act will affect the Directors’ and Officers’ Liability insurance of your business.

The responsibility for complying with the Act lies at the top-level of your organization, making your directors individually accountable for any perceived breach of duty, potentially leading to a compensation claim.

Although terrorism is currently included in Employer’s Liability and Public Liability policies, the coverage limit is reduced, with Employer’s liability cover limited to £5 million, and Public Liability policies typically limit any one claim to £2 or £5 million. The adequacy of this coverage in the event of a terrorist attack on your organization may be questionable.

Moreover, the proximity of your business to others can increase the likelihood of multiple parties facing allegations of negligence or failure to comply with the new law, which may further affect your insurance. Insurers are likely to be concerned about the aggregation of this limit, which refers to the total amount they might have to pay out for the total number of claims during your policy period.

Hence, insurance providers will closely scrutinize your organization’s efforts to meet its duty to protect, and you may need to demonstrate your compliance with the Act when applying for or renewing a policy.

Questions you can expect will include:

  • How many people gather at your location(s)?
  • What properties are adjacent to yours?
  • How accessible is your venue?
  • What security measures do you have in place?
  • Do you use external safety advisers?

Business insurance from Prospero.

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