Progress on Martyn’s Law
Draft legislation for Martyn’s Law is set to be published in the spring. Figen Murray, campaigner and mother of Martyn Hett, whom the law is named after, explains what we can expect and what it has taken to get this far
The journey with Martyn’s Law has so far been an incredibly long and arduous one. However, it feels like we are coming to the point of it being presented as a draft legislation this spring, followed by a few parliamentary processes until its sign off by the King.
December proved to be a very positive month and brought two very important encounters as far as Martyn’s Law is concerned.
The first encounter was with the new home secretary, Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat, the security minister. Most meetings at the home office have a certain running order – Nick Aldworth, Brendan Cox and I usually meet at the café opposite the home office for a quick strategy meeting to plan how to proceed. 12th December was no different. At the time, we were very concerned about smaller venues being left unsecured. Ready to argue our corner and equipped with all the right words to say, we were pleasantly surprised to be told that there would be two tiers, with the standard tier covering venues with 100+ capacity. We no longer needed to argue the case for smaller venues, and it was great news. During the same meeting, we were told that the government had decided to call the legislation Martyn’s Law. Two great pieces of news in one meeting was more than we could have wished for.
Three days later, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, phoned me at home to reiterate that the government is giving the green light for the legislation and things will go ahead with the draft paper being presented by him in parliament in early spring. It was very poignant that he phoned me on Martyn’s 35th birthday. Very surreal, but such an apt birthday gift indeed! I felt humbled and grateful. The prime minister also requested during the phone conversation that we continue working with the home office on the finer detail of the legislation.
And of course, behind the scenes, our meetings with the home office continue. We obviously want to achieve the best outcome for Martyn’s Law and are negotiating some of the finer details of the legislation where there is still a discrepancy between the home office and our vision.
For any new legislation to be effective, it needs to be fit for purpose. It needs to be practicable and proportionate. However, Martyn’s Law also needs teeth so that people adhere to the changes the legislation will inevitably bring with it. Whilst event organisers and venues will need to operate differently, Martyn’s Law does not intend to be something punitive. There will be a period of embedment as venues will need to adapt. Change is never straightforward or easy. Guidance and support, sometimes even bespoke support will be offered, especially for the standard tier. There is also already an abundance of training, information and support available. Several things are already on offer to help people adapt to Martyn’s Law, including: free-of-charge ACT E-learning training (ProtectUK app and website); CTSAs; a variety of learning tools and a lot of guidance (ProtectUK app and website); and working groups run by the home office at various locations around the UK. As well as this, fair and credible sanctions for breaches are being established; there is a promotion of a positive culture change across the various industries the legislation applies to and there is bespoke support and statutory guidance by the government.
The two-tier system that is proposed covers the following.
Applies to locations with a 100+ capacity. These venues can engage in simple training and information sharing, they can prepare by establishing with staff what to do in case of a terrorist attack (e.g. locking doors, knowing where to invacuate or evacuate colleagues and customers) and it recommends that lifesaving skills are acquired and administered in the immediate aftermath of an attack until emergency services arrive. My hope was that in this tier life saving-skills would be mandatory, but they recommend it.
The enhanced tier is for 800+ capacity venues. These venues should, on the whole, already know what is required, however the legislation crystallises what is required. The legislation stipulates that 800+ capacity venues need to undertake a thorough risk assessment and follow this up with a sound security plan. They may need to update their CCTV provision and ensure security training is up to the required standard, staff need to be able to offer life-saving training in case of an attack, and staff need to be familiar with new systems and processes.
Martyn’s Law will of course never stop all terrorist attacks, but it will significantly reduce opportunities for them to strike and cause harm to the fabric of our society. However, I feel it would be very useful to educate the general public about the existence of Martyn’s Law, enabling them to challenge poor security once the legislation is active. An educated public will result in a more resilient public. It is hoped that the government will be running public awareness campaigns sooner rather than later so that by the time the legislation kicks in properly, people are already expecting to be kept very safe when out and about.
I hope also that life-saving skills are taught more widely, ideally at school age so that the general public is better equipped to deal with life threatening emergencies where they, by default of their presence, become first responders.
Martyn’s Law will bring about big changes to the way we live. People will inevitably notice increased security measures when out and about. However, it will hopefully mean that people will be attending events at venues, big and small, in the knowledge that they are kept much safer. Whilst I was initially criticised that Martyn’s Law will result in turning the UK into a police state, that is obviously not going to be the case. Being quite involved within the security sector, I know that Martyn’s Law will bring with it lots of opportunities, from training people better to producing equipment and security products that will become increasingly more sophisticated. Mass screening is already happening at some major venues, some in a test phase, others already actively using the technology. Feedback from the general public is that in many cases people were not even aware they were being security screened. Mass screening technology also speeds up the process of allowing people into venues, thus avoiding unnecessary queues.
Security measures in towns and cities
Street furniture such as benches, planters, bins, lamp posts, bike stands, and many other items can be transformed to be effective counter-terrorism measures. Security can become part of the landscape we live in without compromising the aesthetics of modern town and city living. And to that end, architects and town planners can find new ways of incorporating security measures into their streets and buildings without compromising the looks of either.
My biggest expectation though is that lives are saved through Martyn’s Law.