Out-Law News 1 min. read

UK government confirms new venue anti-terrorism protect duty

The UK Home Office has pledged to introduce a new law requiring venue operators to consider the risk of terrorist attacks and to take proportionate and reasonable measures to prepare and protect the public.

There is currently no legal requirement for organisations or venues to consider security measures in most public places. The new ‘protect duty’ commitment comes after the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, when 22 people were killed as they left an Ariana Grande performance.

In its response document to the 2021 protect duty consultation, which formed part of the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to improve public security, the Home Office set out the key statistics and themes from the 2,755 replies that they received.

Two thirds (70%) of respondents backed proposals for a law requiring venue operators to take appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the public from attacks, including staff training, while half supported the use of civil penalties to ensure compliance with the proposed public duty.

Half were also in favour of the creation of a new inspectorate designed to identify key security vulnerabilities at venues as well as share best practice, though a majority agreed that the measures should not place an undue burden on smaller organisations - particularly those which are smaller in size or staffed by volunteers, such as places of worship.

At the same time, concerns were raised about the geographical extent of the duty and whether it would apply only to the venue itself or its entire footprint, as well as how would it deal with franchisees, concessions staff and leaseholders.

There were also questions over how the duty defined both terrorism and terrorist acts, and the implications of those definitions on incidents that were not motivated by terrorism, but which had similar outcomes.

Kevin Bridges, health and safety law expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “The government’s response document does not provide a solution to these concerns. Echoing developments seen in other areas, however, it confirms a commitment to create a culture of safety and to harness private sector resources to drive improvements.”

“Significantly, however, the government acknowledges that ‘it is essential that a range of tools, guidance and support is delivered to ensure that the ask of those in scope of the Protect Duty is understandable and deliverable,’” he said.

“If the government’s aim to ‘create a culture of security, with a consistency of application and a greater certainty of effect’ is to be achieved, this must be front and centre in their deliberations,” Bridges added.

The Home Office said the government intended to introduce the legislation to parliament at the “earliest opportunity” though no date was given.

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