Martyn’s Law has not arrived yet – but the need to mitigate risk is already here

On 22nd May, it will be six years since the Manchester Arena bombing took the lives of 22 people and changed the lives of hundreds more forever. Since then, campaigners – led by Figen Murray OBE, whose son, Martyn, was amongst those killed in the attack – have been pushing for legislation to respond to the threat terror attacks and mitigate the risk of such devastating consequences in the future.

Known as Martyn’s Law, in honour of Figen’s son, the proposed legislation is expected to be heard in parliament for the first time soon. While there is broad consensus across the events industry and amongst security professionals that Martyn’s Law is an important, long-overdue piece of legislation, there is also a need to understand that risk mitigation should not be a response to new legal obligations, but a response to the threat. And the threat is far from new.

With all the delays and anticipation surrounding Martyn’s Law – formerly referred to as Protect Duty – many event organisers and venues have adopted a wait-and-see approach, putting consideration of counter terrorism and risk on hold until they have clarity on what’s mandated by the legislation. But terrorists will not wait for legislation before they strike, and the threat of vehicle as a weapon attacks and accidental vehicle incursions is not only constant, but constantly evolving too. Consequently, it’s important to act now to identify and mitigate risk, rather than waiting for a legal obligation to do so.

So what’s the best way to go about doing that? The first step is understanding the threat. There are a number of ways in which you can do this, and the first is to acknowledge that every event, venue and location is affected by specific threat and vulnerability – so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to risk mitigation. However, there are valuable sources of information to learn more about potential threats and how to mitigate risk, including the ProtectUK website, which has the latest government updates about Martyn’s Law, guidance on all aspects of security and counter terrorism, and an array of e-learning and webinars https://www.protectuk.police.uk/ . Volume 1 of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report is also a useful read, because it outlines the security failings and the lessons learned, which, hopefully, will inform the Martyn’s Law legislation https://manchesterarenainquiry.org.uk/report-volume-one/ . The responses to the government’s Martyn’s Law consultation are also a good starting point to understand the thinking behind the proposed law, and the government has published a Martyn’s Law fact sheet: Martyn’s Law Factsheet  – Home Office in the media (blog.gov.uk)

But improved resilience to terror attacks doesn’t just require knowledge, it needs action too. Working with experts in counter terrorism and risk to understand the specific threat and vulnerability of your site or event enables you to take informed decisions about appropriate and proportionate risk mitigation. The measures you put in place should always take account of your operational needs and budget, along with your risk, and there should always be options available to modify the initial specification aligned to these factors. It may even be an option to do nothing, if that’s a choice proportionate to the risk – the critical thing is to be aware of the implications of your actions in terms of safety and security for your event, your staff, your customers, and your reputation.

It’s also advisable to check the credentials of the experts you are relying on for risk assessment and advice. At Crowdguard, we are not in the business of selling HVM; our company is founded on the principle of advising customers about proportionate risk mitigation and selecting the most appropriate solution from a wide range of temporary, semi-permanent and permanent systems. But verifying the qualifications and experience of your advisers, and seeking references if possible, is all part of the due diligence of mitigating risk.

Why is expertise so important? Because HVM is not a simple barrier, it is a counter terrorism measure, so it needs to be correctly specified and installed to protect people and assets from harm. And that’s the principle behind Martyn’s Law – despite the best efforts of the police and intelligence services, we cannot hope to prevent all potential terror attacks, but we can take action to mitigate risk.

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