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Protect Duty and Current Threats.

The United Kingdom current national threat level is SUBSTANTIAL, but what does this mean? Doctrinally this means an attack is likely from one of the 4 main terrorism designators that are identified by UK Counter Terrorism intelligence and policing, these being: 

  1. International / Islamist Terrorism
  2. Northern Ireland related Terrorism
  3. Right Wing / Left, Anarchist and Single-issue Terrorism.
  4. State sponsored Terrorism.

There have been incidences of all the above being carried out to varying degrees of success within the United Kingdom’s borders over the last 25 years + which has shaped our individual and collective thought process towards countering these threats in both practical and policy terms. It has also driven the understanding and application of current laws to help protect the public from these terrorist events for all security professionals involved in public safety, but is the current legislation appropriate and fit for purpose? Do we as security professionals and security services really define target attractiveness to each venue taking into account its own unique areas and then ensure that the mitigations, we put in place are appropriate? 

‘For 2023-24, King Charles III included the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill – otherwise known as Martyn’s Law – in the speech. Though policies included in the reading are not guaranteed to become legislation, this does provide an important indication that the Bill will go forwards and be introduced to parliament, which begins the main stage of the legislative process – a reading in the House of Commons.

For those backing the Bill, this will come as a positive step forward and a relief. There has been uncertainty on whether the legislation would continue it’s progress, given the findings from the pre-legislative scrutiny report in July.

Making several references to national security and strengthening intelligence services, the King’s Speech outlined that: “Legislation will be introduced to protect public premises from terrorism in the light of the Manchester Arena attack” – a direct reference to Martyn’s Law.’[1]

[1] https://www.ifsecglobal.com/physical-security/martyns-law-terrorism-protection-of-premises-legislation/

The Protect duty is the UK Government’s developing legislation in response to the results and recommendations of the Manchester Arena Public Inquiry (Manchester Arena Inquiry Volume 1 – Security for the Arena – June 2021 & Volume 2 – Emergency Response – November 2022) which was conducted to understand the policy, operational procedures and responses during the lead up to, during and after the terrorist attack on the 22nd May 2017. After a public consultation the Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill was presented to Parliament on 2nd May 2023. The Home affairs select committee were then invited to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed draft bill which it completed and gave formal written feedback on 19th July 2023. The committee’s major conclusions were: 

‘Whilst we welcome the Government’s overall intention behind the Draft Bill, we have some serious concerns about the proportionality of the Bill, especially in relation to the impact on smaller businesses, voluntary and community-run organisations in the standard tier premises, where there is a lack of evidence that the Bill will adequately reduce the threat of terrorism for smaller organisations. We also have some concerns about the unfinished provisions in the Draft Bill, the purpose of the Bill, the regulator and some of the duties required. There are a number of other areas in which we feel that the Draft Bill could be improved upon, including introducing a provision for mandatory life-saving training and statutory standards for the design of buildings.’  

Home Affairs Committee, 2023[2] 

  1. [2] Home Affairs Committee, 19th July 2023, Terrorism (protection of Premises) Draft Bill, Fourth report of Session 2022-23, Summary page.3

The concerns raised by the Home Affairs Committee must now have analysis provided to them as the draft bill does not provide or advise the content, framework or governance required. This creates a tension for the current UK government as they have created a political imperative to show the public that this draft bill is fit for purpose, responsible and sensibly implementable before the next election? After the campaigning of Figen Murray (Martyn Hett’s mother) to get this bill established, the acknowledgment and wide messaging to the public that it is required by the UK Government and as stated in the report to honour the victims and survivors of all terrorist attacks, this becomes the moral component of the Protect Duty and gives it a firm political imperative for establishment.

The draft bill is ambitious in its scope and will be drawing a wide percentage of the population in the UK into an area of counter terrorism procedures and preparedness that they will have never considered before. Although there is valuable knowledge, advice, guidance and training available from the National Protective Security Authority (Previously known as CPNI) and through ACT e-learning modules this will not be enough to educate all the stakeholders that will be affected.

Watch this space in 2024……….

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