Following the inclusion of Martyn’s Law in the King’s Speech, the government has committed to progressing the draft bill into law. Deborah Ainscough from Crowdguard discusses what that means for the continuing wait for Martyn’s Law, and what the impact is likely to be on those responsible for PALs.
On 7th November, Martyn’s Law was mentioned in the King’s Speech, confirming the government’s intention to keep people safer from attacks in public places. It was a brief but impactful statement that marked a major milestone following seven years of campaigning.
But it is just that, a milestone. Significant, yes. Good news, absolutely! But there is still a long way to go before the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill becomes Martyn’s Law legislation. In the meantime, we all have a role to play in making sure that the principles that have driven the Martyn’s Law campaign this far become a part of the events industry’s operational culture, rather than a simply remaining mandatory requirement on the horizon.
The next steps
Inclusion of Martyn’s Law in the King’s Speech indicates a government commitment to delivering the legislation during the next parliamentary session, but the timings are by no means certain.
There is a draft bill, but the consultation carried out after it was published highlighted some potential flaws, challenges and dissent, which may mean amendments to the draft, or even a new consultation. For example, the consultation highlighted that unboundaried events do not form part of the current scope, and this may be added.
The bill will need to debated by MPs in the House of Commons, and again in the House of Lords, and it will have to be approved by both Houses before passing into law. This process is robust, and both Houses have to agree on the bill’s content before it can become law, so if the bill is amended, it will need to be debated again each time changes are made. If the House of Lords make amendments, MPs can reject them, alter them, or suggest alternatives.
It is difficult to predict how long this process will take, because so much depends on the outcome of debates in each house. It is clear, however, that the time for enlisting the support of your local MP and supporting the campaign for Martyn’s Law has not passed.
Some principles won’t change
Regardless of what Martyn’s Law looks like by the time it becomes legislation, or how long that takes, there are some core principles embedded in the proposed law that will remain constant.
Firstly, Martyn’s Law is about keeping people and places safer. No law can guarantee safety or eliminate risk. What Martyn’s Law seeks to do is to reduce risk by obligating events, venues and those responsible for PALs to understand threat, vulnerability and risk and to take proportionate steps to mitigate it. At Crowdguard, we talk about proportionality a lot – it is a core principle for both Martyn’s Law and the way we operate as a business, because there doesn’t need to be a belt and braces, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it approach to counter terrorism. A proportionate solution takes into account risk factors, costs, and operational considerations to align protection with practicality, and safety with affordability. For example, a recent Crowdguard installation of the semi-permanent Unafor Core HVM protection at Stockport County football Club has cost the club just 8p per fan per fixture for the season as a one off cost – ‘cheap as chips’ as their Stadium and Facilities Manager, Richard Hinks commented.
Secondly, protecting people is not just about a future legal obligation; it’s about doing the right thing. When Martyn’s Law becomes legislation, it will simply add a layer of mandatory obligation to a moral duty of care that already exists. Many venues, event organisers and local authorities already take that moral duty seriously and are already ensuring proportionate measures are in place to protect people.
Finally, protecting people doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive or onerous. Most of the objections being raised about Martyn’s Law relate to the added costs of hostile vehicle mitigation and other protective measures, which some fear will add overheads and an admin/operational burden that could threaten the viability of events and businesses. But risk mitigation should always be balanced with practical considerations, and the most effective protective measure of all is vigilance.
At Crowdguard, we are very clear that the most important step is understanding your threat, vulnerability and risk so that you can take informed decisions about mitigating risk. For some, that may be as simple as carrying out a risk assessment, training staff and having a plan in place. All of those actions can be taken for free with minimal time investment.
Do we really need Martyn’s Law?
For those who believe Martyn’s Law is unnecessary, there are plenty of quotable statistics about how few people die in terror attacks as compared to other causes. Thankfully, the statistics are right; ‘successful’ terror attacks are rare. But the terror threat level is substantial, and terror attacks have not only taken the lives of innocent people, they have also devastated the lives of those with serious injuries, those with psychological scars, and those left behind following the loss of a loved one.
Many events, venues and PALs are already doing the right thing, despite the lack of current legislation. Others need to be compelled to act before they take the risk seriously. Either way, surely it is better to protect as many people as we can from a serious threat – no matter how rarely realised – than it is to count the human cost of inaction.