What is the protect duty?

This February, the government launched a consultation into proposed new anti-terrorism legislation protecting the general public. The Protect Duty, as it’s billed, builds on ‘Martyn’s Law’, legislation campaigned for by the mother of one of the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena attack.

The consultation will consider ways of developing proportionate security measures in publicly accessible locations, seeking to make it a legal requirement for venue operators and owners of other public locations to assess and mitigate security risks, taking steps to protect the public. Currently, there is no legal requirement to do so.

What counts as a publicly accessible location and who does this apply to?

Publicly accessible locations are any spaces the general public have permission to enter. This includes three main categories: public venues – such as entertainment venues, tourist attractions and shopping centres, with a capacity of over 100; large organisations like retail or entertainment chains with a minimum of 250 staff, and public spaces such as parks, beaches and thoroughfares.

Public spaces are more challenging to protect, and the government wants to explore how it can work with the parties responsible for these locations to achieve improved security. This means establishing responsibility for safety in such spaces, considering what the reasonable expectations are, and the potential role played by legislation in mitigating these issues.

It isn’t possible to predict or prevent all terrorist attacks, so any publicly accessible location can be a target. Therefore, those responsible for the spaces should be ready and prepared to take appropriate action at any time.

The consultation’s aim is to provide a security framework to help venues be prepared by considering the adequacy of adopted security measures, systems and processes.

So what can venues do to be alert to threats?

The consultation document includes a list of recommendations for venues:

  • Be alert to suspicious behaviours, engage the person in a welcoming and helpful manner or report them to the police, be alert to abandoned bags
  • Be security-minded, especially online. Avoid providing specific information that could aid a terrorist, for example floor plans with security details
  • Encourage and enable a security culture
  • Complete and provide ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) Awareness e-learning
  • Have a clear action plan. How would you respond to an incident inside or outside your site?
  • Periodically review and refresh the risk assessment
  • What does it mean to be prepared for an attack?

    The framework includes three key points that all spaces and organisations should pay attention to:

  • Completing a risk assessment – this means understanding what a potential terrorist’s motivations may be, what they might target, how they might attack, and how those motivations and methodologies might change.
  • Security as a system – it’s important to think of security as a combination of physical and behavioural interventions. You shouldn’t only think of erecting physical measures such as fences, bollards, CCTV and blast-resistant glazing, but also building and sustaining a security-minded culture. You should encourage vigilance and provide the appropriate training to anyone involved in the day-to-day running of your establishment.
  • Correct installation – it’s not enough to just choose a product and sit back hoping for the best. You need to also ascertain that your system doesn’t conflict with other safety measures, such as health and safety and fire regulations.
  • To comply, organisations are encouraged to use information and guidance provided by the government and available through the police services. These will help when assessing the likelihood of terrorist threats to the public and staff at the locations they operate.

    The guidance is designed to help imagine the potential impacts of the risks. These will vary depending on the specific functions or qualities of the site in question, as well as the security systems that are in place.

    Venues should also think about a ‘reasonably practicable’ organisational preparedness system. This doesn’t mean that all employees have to become security staff, but rather providing training and planning, so that everyone knows how to react quickly in case something does happen.

    How does compliance work?

    Many organisations will obviously face budget and time restrictions, particularly the smaller ones. Compliance is one of the questions the consultation is seeking answers to, but current suggestions include simple measures such as periodic risk assessments and preparedness activities, as well as staff training.

    What will the government do to support and work with partners?

    First and foremost, the government is offering advice to help understand threats and attack methods, practical preparedness measures, how to stay vigilant and plan for incidents. A new digital platform will be launched this year for advice and training purposes.

    In addition to this, sectoral and regional engagement days have been outlined in the proposal, with updates and revisions to training and e-learning programmes. An app devoted to ACT was launched in March 2020, and the government authorities Career Transition Partnership (CTP) and Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) are also providing advice.

    Engaging with the security industry

    There are also plans for the government and businesses to have more engagement with the security industry. Organisations with a role in delivering and supporting security solutions – services and products – can help owners and operators of publicly accessible locations comply with the Protect Duty.

    It will be important to ensure that the market can provide sufficient high-quality advice, products and services to all those within scope. To this end, the government may consider introducing new schemes to promote and maintain appropriate standards such as accredited training, approved contractor schemes or regulation, in addition to existing initiatives.

    The consultation period will run until 11.45pm on 2nd July.

    To help advice businesses find the right security solutions, at Jacksons Fencing, we are publishing a series of blogs going into more detail about the specific needs of different organisations, so keep checking our blog for more advice.

    If you’d like tailored recommendations for the best security solution for your business, speak to us today.

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